Waimea Middle School student Cody Cook, now in eighth grade, submitted an essay at the end of last school year that was chosen as a Jigna essay winner for 2012. His essay is the only one to be selected in the entire United States for the year.
“Jigna” is an word in the Ethiopian language of Tigrynia that refers to a legendary hero who can never be defeated. Each year, the internationally renowned Mental Karate youth leadership mentoring program selects up to five students from around the world to receive its Jigna Award. To win, students who have earned a Mental Karate Black Belt must write an essay outlining all the actions they took from White Belt to Black Belt and explain how those actions changed their life and the lives of others.
Jignas, according to the Mental Karate program, are inspirational examples for everyone who ventures on the journey of earning Mental Karate belts, which requires setting and achieving goals.
Mental Karate was founded by Mawi Asgedom, who, as a child, fled civil war in Ethiopia and survived in a Sudanese refugee camp for three years. After being resettled in U.S., he overcame poverty, language barriers and personal tragedy to graduate from Harvard, where he gave the commencement address to an audience of 30,000. Since then, Mawi has written eight books that are used in thousands of classrooms across U.S. and he has talked to over a million students and educators in more than 40 states – including Hawaii Island’s Waimea Middle School, which he visited at the end of the last school year largely due to student-led fund raising.
Mawi’s bestselling memoir, “Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard,” was read by all of Mrs. Noetzel’s students as part of their Language Arts curriculum and, subsequently, the students decided to invite him to Waimea from Chicago to talk to all of the school’s sixth through eighth grade students. Mawi accepted their invitation and also spoke to students and faculty at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, who also contributed to the fund raising effort.WMS will continue integrating the Mental Karate program into Language Arts this school year. For more information, go to www.mentalkarate.com.