KS Kapālama senior takes home top photojournalism award

Apr. 30, 2024

An empty ʻōpū and an inquisitive mind led Kamehameha Schools Kapālama senior Kadyn Ito to snap a kiʻi that earned the top honor at the National High School Journalism Convention, capping a successful huakaʻi for a handful of journalism haumāna.

Ito took the winning photo during fall break while he and his ʻohana were in New York City for a college tour of NYU. One evening, he was out searching for a dinner spot when he heard chanting and yelling. Being a dutiful photojournalist, Ito had his camera handy when he tracked down the source of the commotion; dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations near Times Square.

“As I came around the block I could see a vast sea of protesters, Palestinian and Israeli, separated by the street with barricades. I luckily had my press camera bag with me and jumped right into the fray to capture the moment,” said Ito.

The kiʻi Ito took perfectly captured the raw emotion of the moment and garnered TV news coverage in Hawaiʻi and social media buzz. Ito’s journalism advisor, kumu Lionel Barona knew right away that Ito had caught lightning in a bottle.

“When I first saw this photo, I immediately told myself ‘we have something here’,” said Barona.

That suspicion was confirmed this April when Barona, Ito and a handful of other KS Kapālama haumāna took part in the national journalism convention in Kansas City. Over 3000 students from over 130 middle and high schools attended.

Ito’s photo landed on the shortlist in the Spot News Photography category, and he suddenly found himself sharing the moʻolelo of how he captured the image in front of a large crowd of fellow aspiring journalists and judges who offered praise, but also critiques.

“I was very nervous. I don't remember much of what I said. I do remember explaining how I jumped into the action, and the judges really liked that I put myself out there. Of course, it is somewhat dangerous to do so. But jumping into the action is what photojournalism is all about,” said Ito.

On the final day of the convention, Ito learned he had captured the Superior Award, and was the only student to earn this equivalent of a gold medal in that category. 

“I think what it especially did was put Hawaiʻi on the mark for journalism because no one expects an island boy to have a photo of that magnitude, and especially to win the overall top prize,” said Barona.

Ito wasn’t the only KSK journalism haumāna to take home honors. Junior ʻOhu Brooks earned Honorable Mention, the equivalent of a bronze medal, in the Editorial Writing category. A first-time participant in the convention, Brooks was tasked with writing an editorial in just 90 minutes.

KS Kapālama junior ʻOhu Brooks (left) and senior Kaydn Ito (right) earned honors at the National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City.

“I truly was not expecting anything. So I was really excited to be able to have something to go home with and also have this learning experience to know what I have to do next year,” said Brooks.

“It was funny while getting my award and watching her [ʻOhu] get her award...all these people not knowing what chee hoos are, thinking we're just wailing super loud,” said Ito.

“What we strive to do as kumu when we look at our learner outcomes and E Ola!, we are producing these ʻōiwi leaders. We're putting them on this global stage, and they're making their mark. So I think that's just a glimpse of what we're going to see from these kids in the future,” said Barona.

Speaking of the future, Ito plans to attend U.H. Mānoa in the fall, studying both music and business. That business acumen is part of his overall plan to become a professional photographer. 

Brooks, who already is an alakaʻi for the school newspaper, Kā Mōʻī, is excited to return to the national journalism conference next year as a senior. Reading and writing, which she once loathed, has turned into her passion. She offers this manaʻo to her fellow haumāna: “Keep an open mind and stay curious of the things around you.”