Student achievers shine through the pandemic

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Serena Cox, the Kaua‘i Area Complex Teacher of the Year for 2020, is visted by her daughter Miley Cox, whose film won top honors in the Middle School Category at the Hawaiian Independent Films Festival, during a distance learning break, Tuesday.

KALAHEO — The film, “A Message to the President: Transitions in Democracy,” needs a ticket to be viewed on the Hawai‘i Independent Film Festivals website, said Miley Cox, an eighth grade student at the Waimea Canyon Middle School who is listed as the film’s director, editor and narrator.

The film earned her top honors at the 2020 Hawai‘i International Film Festival Middle School category, said her dad Malieek Cox. The film is currently available to view on the HIFF website through Nov. 29, when it plays with the Daniel K. Inouye Initiative Showcase.

“My purpose in creating this film was to ask our president about the possibilities of having a ‘wonderful world’ based on future Global Goal Initiatives,” Miley said. “When we see things on a daily basis that harm our environment and the people of our world, it shows how devastating and catastrophic our world is becoming. I wanted to show some of the social, political, and environmental dilemmas we have in our society today to put into perspective how we treat and take care of our earth. To show what a wonderful world it could be.”

The Waimea Canyon Middle School student, who aspires to become a journalist, said there are no actors or lead characters in the project she created as a documentary to show perspective on some of the societal problems we have and we don’t see in the media.

She said she was the only student at Waimea Canyon Middle School to enter the prestigious film festival.

“My mother, Serena Cox — she was announced the Kaua‘i Area Complex Teacher of the Year in October — is a media teacher at Waimea Canyon Middle School,” Miley said. “She helped me a lot with editing and filming techniques.”

On Veterans Day, while the island celebrated the dedication of a mural by Christian Lardizabal at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center, Jannik Evanoff, a home school student in Lihu‘e, learned he was the Junior Piano winner for the Hawai‘i Music Teachers National Association Competition that was held virtually with performance videos being submitted by Oct. 31.

“The judges were thoroughly impressed by the high level of playing from all contestants,” said Yuseon Nam, the MTNA Competitions Chair, in a letter advising Evanoff of his winner status in Junior Piano, No. 4. “The decision was a difficult one to make, and the winners will be receiving an instructional email on the next phase of the competition.”

Evanoff, no stranger to winning music awards, had Monica Chung as his instructor.

Two days later, on Nov. 13, Bill Quinlan, a retired Kaua‘i firefighter, reported that his son Josh, a compliance and analysis engineer with Snorkel, landed a solid No. 9 spot in the active Nevada Pro Welterweights after winning the Legacy Fighting Alliance first mixed martial arts events since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Henderson, Nevada.

Sponsored by Snorkel, Josh, who was a familiar face among the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation boys soccer during his career at Waimea High School, went on to defeat his opponent, Pete “The Crypt” Keepers with a knockout in the second round of three 5-minute rounds.

“I compete to test skills and the personal growth that comes with setting a goal,” Josh said in a Snorkel journal. “I am grateful to work for such a genuine company that has a great work culture and brings out the best in their employees.”

Josh says mixed martial arts is his outlet for physical activity and personal growth.

“I am currently undefeated (after starting training in 2012) in my amateur and professional (first fight in 2015) MMA record, and I am grateful that my Ahern family supports me in my passion,” Josh said.

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