When Character Counts

LIHUE — Who would have thought a nasty task like changing diapers could win an award?

For Nicolle Patengga, a fourth-grade student at Eleele Elementary School, it did just that.

Patengga won first place in the annual Character Counts essay contest for fourth-grade students. Kauai Council for Family and Community Education president Margo Hashimoto said Patengga’s essay was forwarded to the state level, where she placed third.

The six winners of the Kauai FCE contest, their parents and teachers were hosted to a luncheon by the Kauai FCE Council Saturday, during which their awards were presented.

“Writing the essay was hard,” Patengga said. “Responsibility is helping taking care of my brothers and sister after going to school and doing my homework.”

Character Counts is a national art and essay contest based on six character traits: fairness, caring, citizenship, trustworthiness and respect.

This year’s contest was based on responsibility and was open to all fourth-grade students in public, private and home schools.

Of the nine public schools on Kauai, just three participated, resulting in 12 classes submitting 147 entries. A panel of five judges selected the six winners who were honored at the luncheon.

Patengga, for her first-place award, was presented a check for $75.

Her third-place award from the state added another $50 which she said will go into her savings account.

Emma Seres of Kapaa Elementary School got $50 for second place followed by Janine Salud of the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School pocketing $25 for third place.

Three honorable mention awards of $15 each were presented to Mikaela Depoe of Eleele School, Aftan Dodd and Abigail Tagalicud, both of Kapaa Elementary School.

Tracy Kobayashi, fourth-grade teacher at Eleele, is no stranger to getting Character Counts awards since Patengga is the second first-place award winner for the school. Last year, Kobayashi shepherded Zaiyena Miguel to a first-place win.

“This year, we were able to incorporate the FCE contest with writing and essay writing,” Kobayashi said. “For ‘responsibility,’ we had a class discussion on what it looks like and the class took the results of that discussion and used the writing steps they learned.”


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