2022 High School & College Student Essay and Poetry Contest

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 2022 contest.

In addition to monetary award prizes, first place winners from each category will be acknowledged in our 21st Annual Evening of Aloha Gala on November 5, 2022. All winning entries will be published in an online booklet on our website.



How to Apply

TO ENTER: Submit a 400-500 word ESSAY 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.
  • Immediately after WWII, only one Japanese American was awarded the Medal of Honor. A review was conducted in the 90s and 20 additional Japanese Americans had their actions upgraded to the highest degree 55 years after WWII. How can we continue to acknowledge the selflessness of their service?

OR a work of POETRY (2 typed pages or less) reflecting on the them of “Honor”:

  •  Consider: How do you think the Medal of Honor recipients would want to be remembered? How do we honor their legacy?

DEADLINE: Email entries by Sunday, July 17, 2022, 11:59 PDT as a Word doc to studentcontest@goforbroke.org. Include: category you are entering; phone number; school/university currently attending; title of your entry; and 2021-2022 grade/level.


  • Contest is open to all high school (9th through 12th grades) and college (undergraduate and graduate) students. 
  • 2021 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.

Note: All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges selected by GFBNEC. Winners will be notified by Monday, August 1, 2022. In order to stay informed on GFBNEC news and updates, all participants will be added to the eTorch online subscriber list.


  • 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 www.goforbroke.org/hanashi, or our affiliated website, the Japanese American Military History Collective at ndajams.omeka.net.

Contest Prize Awards

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

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

Contest Honorees

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

Manabi Hirasaki

522nd Field Artillery Battalion, C Battery

“I just figured I was doing my share…I was proud to be with the 442nd.”

Sig Kagawa

Community Philanthropist and Business Leader

A strong leader with a lasting mission – getting others involved and invested.

Mas Takahashi

100th Infantry Battalion,   C Company

Keeping his buddies’ memories alive.

Lawson Iichiro Sakai Memorial Scholarship

GFBNEC is pleased to organize 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 2022, a $500 scholarship will be given to each student. Only applicants who participate in the 2022 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.

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