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16-Year-Old Honolulu Student Wins 'Paint-the-Plane' Contest

Prize Is A $5000 Scholarship, A Free Trip, And Seeing His Artwork On The Plane

Honolulu high-school student Aaron Nee, 16, is the winner of the Alaska Airlines "Spirit of the Islands" Paint-the-Plane contest. His artwork will adorn a Boeing 737-800 aircraft honoring the unique culture of the Aloha State. As the grand prize winner, Nee will also receive a trip for four to any of the carrier's destinations and a $5,000 scholarship.

Known for his artistic ability and interest in graphic design and athletics, Nee was informed by airline representatives that his design won the statewide contest during a surprise announcement today. The Kaiser High School junior is a nearly straight-A student and a decorated member of the school's Air Force ROTC program. Nee's winning design displays a voyaging canoe depicting how Polynesians first arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, a bright yellow hibiscus (the state flower), the Hawaiian Island chain and the phrase "Spirit of the Islands." Nee said he plans to invest his $5,000 for college and will take his family to visit relatives in New York, where he hopes to see snow for the first time.

The judging panel, comprised of Hawaii artists, educators and other local community members, carefully scored and selected the three top designs from more than 2,700 submissions created by students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The contest was sponsored by Alaska Airlines, the Hawaii State Department of Education and Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.

The public participated in an online vote of the three finalist designs. More than 7,000 votes were cast, with Nee's submission receiving 4,013 votes. Izabela Hamilton, a 12th grader at Seabury Hall on the Island of Maui, placed second for her design featuring a male and female hula dancer against a backdrop of ocean waves and windswept mountain cliffs. Sophia Cleek, a sixth grader at Kapolei Middle School on the Island of Oahu, placed third for her design depicting a voyaging canoe sailing around the Islands. Hamilton and Cleek will each receive a trip for four to any Alaska Airlines destination and a $1,000 scholarship.

"We're thrilled with Aaron's beautiful design depicting some of the most iconic features of the Aloha State and look forward to sharing his plane across our route network," said Mark Bocchi, Alaska Airlines' managing director of sales and community marketing. "We were awestruck by the creativity of all the designs that were submitted. We applaud Izabela and Sophia for their stunning artwork as well as the 10 honorable mentions whose designs stood out as the best from their grade level."

The honorable mention winners were also announced today and will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship each. Many of these designs featured the Islands' natural beauty, ocean and wildlife, and popular local activities such as surfing and canoe paddling. Other designs boasted Hawaii's unique geography and many designs depicted King Kamehameha I, who united the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom in 1810.

"The 'Spirit of the Islands' contest has been a wonderful partnership with Alaska Airlines and has provided a fantastic opportunity for some of the best student artists in our public schools to showcase their talents," said Kathryn Matayoshi, Hawaii State Department of Education superintendent. "Congratulations to Aaron and the other student winners who have made us all proud."

(Images: Top, Students at Kaiser HS celebrate Aaron Nee's win, Bottom, Nee's winning design. Provided by Alaska Airlines)

FMI: www.alaskaair.com/hawaii

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