Mid-Pacific Institute student named top Hawaii high school journalist

·4 min read

Jun. 12—Chelsee Sawai entered Mid-Pacific Institute as a sophomore after surviving two years of vicious bullying at another school. At Mid-Pac, she blossomed. Sawai joined the varsity golf team and the cheerleading squad. She served as an officer for various clubs, including the Math Team, the Mid-Pacific Athletes Club and the Practical Skills Club, and participated in a half-dozen more.

Sawai also spent three years on the staff of Mid-Pac's student newspaper, Na Pueo, where journalism became her passion. During that time, her work was selected twice for publication on the Best of SNO (School Newspaper Online ) website. In her senior year, Sawai was the co-editor-in-chief for the paper, and on April 9, she was named Hawaii high school journalist of the year by the Hawaii Scholastic Journalism Association.

Sawai, 17, will be attending Chapman University in California this fall. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

You have the longest list of school activities I've ever seen. How did you manage your time ?

I managed my time by setting my schedules at the beginning of each week. I put a lot of effort into my time management, specifically for journalism. I stopped cheering after COVID came because my school did not pick it up again, so my time went into (other ) extracurriculars at school. I was in about 10 clubs, and I was also on the varsity golf team, and I took academics pretty seriously. All of that combined took up a lot of time. How I managed my time was to put it into perspective—I needed to get journalism done first.

What made journalism so important ?

It's helped me grow, not only as a writer, but as a person. It's taught me people skills. It's taught me how to talk to other people, people that I'd never thought I would have talked to. It's taught me to come out of my comfort zone and to just reach out to people, which I was a little bit scared to do before journalism. I really like that aspect of it.

In three years as a journalist, do you have a particularly memorable interview ?

One of the most memorable interviews that I've had was with my high school principal, because when I interviewed him, I had never had a formal conversation with him. Finally getting to talk to him over Zoom really meant a lot because he's a very good person, he's done a lot for our school, and my (journalism ) teacher actually chose me to be the first to interview him. She said, "I want you to step out of your comfort zone, and instead of only interviewing teachers and students, I want you to interview a higher-level faculty." He was actually my first high-level faculty that I had interviewed ever. So, yes, that was memorable.

Assuming you had any time left over after classwork, journalism and other school activities—or maybe now that you've graduated—are there nonschool things you enjoy doing ?

I really like to shop. I love shopping. I can spend a million dollars on just clothes—if I had the room in my closet to do so. I do golf for my school, but I also golf outside of school. And I usually go to my golf lessons twice a week. I've really grown with that sport because I started golf at another school where I was being severely bullied. Playing golf helped me get through that really tough time. So I really have an appreciation for that sport.

What are your plans for Chapman ?

I'll be double majoring in biological sciences and business, with an emphasis in accounting because I want to somehow be in the medical field. I chose biological sciences because I need to know the science aspect of being a doctor. But I chose business as well because as a doctor you need to know how to run your own business. I'm not majoring in journalism, but I still want to be involved with it.------Reach John Berger at jberger @staradvertiser.com.