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Student Contest

2021 High School & College Student Essay, Performance, and Poetry Contest

Supporting Sponsors

Ken & June Shimabukuro

Anonymous Donor In Memory of Masao Takahashi

Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) supports the legacy of Japanese American WWII veterans who served their country at a time when the United States denied their civil rights. Join us in advocating for civil liberties and equality, the cornerstone of our American democracy, by entering our 2021 contest.

In addition to monetary award prizes, first place winners from each category will be acknowledged in our 20th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala on November 6, 2021. All winning entries will be published in an online booklet on our website.

TO ENTER: Submit a 400-500 word ESSAY, or a work of POETRY (2 typed pages or less) on one of the following topics:

  • The Japanese American WWII veteran experience remains relevant to our society today. Explore one of the ways this is true.
  • One goal of GFBNEC is to inspire new generations to embody the Japanese American veterans' core values of courage, sacrifice, equality, humility and patriotism. How has the Nisei veterans' story impacted your life, identity and/or values? How do you embody any or each of these values?

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Email entries by Friday, July 16, 2021, 11:59 PST and PDT as a Word doc to Include: category you are entering; phone number; school/university currently attending; title of your entry; and 2020-2021 grade/level.


  • Contest is open to all high school (9th through 12th grades) and college (undergraduate and graduate) students.
  • 2020 winners are ineligible for entry in the same category, but may submit an entry under a different category.
  • Applicants who wish to be considered for the “Lawson Iichiro Sakai Memorial Scholarship'' must also submit an essay or poetry entry in the GFBNEC Student Contest. Contest applicants are not required to apply for the scholarship.


  • For more detailed information about the Japanese American WWII veterans, visit our online educational resources at and watch the videos on our YouTube channel.
  • Hear the first-person perspectives in GFBNEC’s Hanashi Oral History Collection of over 1,200 audio-visual interviews that provide valuable insight on the veterans experience. Visit, or our affiliated website, the Japanese American Military History Collective at

In total, 12 awards based on category and level will be distributed as follows:

Essay, High School Division
$1,000: First Prize
$500: Second Prize
$250: Third Prize

Poetry, High School Division
$1,000: First Prize
$500: Second Prize
$250: Third Prize

Essay, College Division
$1,000: First Prize
$500: Second Prize
$250: Third Prize

Poetry, College Division
$1,000: First Prize
$500: Second Prize
$250: Third Prize

All first place winners will be acknowledged in our 20th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala on November 6, 2021. All winning entries will be published in an online booklet on our website.

Thank you to the following sponsors for their continued generous support: Pacific Global Investment Management Company in memory of Manabi Hirasaki (WWII veteran) and Sig Kagawa, Ken and June Shimabukuro and anonymous in memory of WWII Veteran Masao “Mas” Takahashi.

Note: All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges selected by GFBNEC. Winners will be notified by Friday, July 30, 2021. In order to stay informed on GFBNEC news and updates, all participants will be added to the eTorch online subscriber list.

Lawson Sakai with grand-daughter Kisa Sakai
NEW - Lawson Iichiro Sakai Memorial Scholarship
GFBNEC is pleased to announce the launch of the “Lawson Iichiro Sakai Memorial Scholarship,” an annual scholarship established by family and friends of the Nisei WWII veteran to recognize students with outstanding community service. One high school student and one college (undergraduate/graduate) student will be selected based on active participation and support of their community. For 2021, a $500 scholarship will be given to each student. Only applicants who participate in the 2021 GFBNEC Student Essay and Poetry Contest are eligible for consideration.

About Lawson Iichiro Sakai
Born in Los Angeles in 1923, Lawson fully embodied the spirit of courage, patriotism and sacrifice. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he tried to enlist in the military service, but was classified as an “ineligible alien.” When the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans, was formed in 1943, Lawson immediately volunteered. During his service he participated in the liberation of Bruyeres, France, and the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in 1944, receiving a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and Combat Infantryman Badge. After the war, Lawson founded the “Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans” group and generously shared his WWII experience as a way of honoring those he fought alongside with. A dedicated member of the GFBNEC family, Lawson’s commitment to community serves as a driving force of this scholarship.


GFBNEC is honored to administer this scholarship on behalf of the generous family and friends of Lawson Sakai.

This program is not affiliated with nor endorsed by any school or school district. Go For Broke National Education Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

Thank you in advance for your support...

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