68th Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Jewel Mahoe
Jewel Mahoe


High School: Kamehameha Schools Kapalama

College/Degree: University of Northern Colorado, Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, minor in Reading; Vanderbilt University, Master of Education in Special Education; and University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa

Occupation: Preschool special education teacher

Hobbies: Running, reading, learning to sew from my grandma and exchanging handwritten letters with friends on the mainland

How do you live “kaizen,” continuous growth/improvement, in your daily life?

“This year, I became a new teacher but also made a commitment to remain a ‘lifelong learner,’ which means that I have pledged to have a growth mindset and continually develop myself both personally and professionally. I live ‘kaizen’ in my career by having an open mind and understanding that there is something to learn from everyone, including my preschool students. Together, we work through various experiences and learn new things about each other. They help me to improve my teaching skills and show me how to become a better person each day. I also practice continuous growth by stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new people and participate in unfamiliar events. Taking part in the 68th Cherry Blossom Festival and continuing my education has provided me with many opportunities to refine my perspectives and learn from various experts that have valuable knowledge to share with me.”

68th Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Colette Matsuda
Colette Matsuda


High School: Pearl City High School

College/Degree: University of Nevada Las Vegas and Kapi‘olani Community College

Occupation: Veterinarian Technician

Hobbies: Watching the Harry Potter series, reading romance novels, relaxing at the beach with friends and spending time with my family.

How do you live “kaizen,” continuous growth/improvement, in your daily life?

“I live ‘kaizen’ by setting small goals that I know I can reach. Setting goals that aren’t realistic can discourage anyone. Every so often I sit and reflect and think to myself, ‘Is there anything I can do differently to make myself a better person?’ I know that there is never a final destination to self-improvement. It’s a lifelong process. I believe that I’m always trying to push myself to create new experiences, good or bad. And when I fail, I don’t let anything stop me. I get back up and keep fighting, even if the end isn’t in sight. At the beginning of this pageant, I already felt defeated and discouraged but I just kept telling myself that no matter what the outcome, I’ll come out of this experience a better me.”

68th Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Marcie Moribe
Marcie Moribe


High School: Pacific Buddhist Academy

College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Art in Business Administration in Marketing Management and International Business

Occupation: Marketing specialist

Hobbies: Practicing Okinawan dance, trying new restaurants and running

How do you live “kaizen,” continuous growth/improvement, in your daily life?

“The Japanese proverb ‘Ichigo, ichie,’ translated into English as ‘One time, one meeting,’ conveys the universal truth that each moment in life is unrepeatable. Understanding this concept, I’m able to appreciate and reflect upon my life and move forward every day. Each day presents a new opportunity to become a better version of myself.

“The ways I live ‘kaizen’ are through reflection, self-awareness, and feedback. When faced with a challenge, reflection helps me assess the situation and learn from my mistakes. Reflection leads to self-awareness, which allows me to accept the past and move forward. Seeking feedback and guidance from my mentors and peers help me to improve my career and personal life. The collective wisdom of my support circle guides me to make informed decisions. Accepting wins and taking one step at a time allows me to make gradual progress and reassure me on my path of improvement.”

68th Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Alyssa Nakamoto
Alyssa Nakamoto


High School: Mid-Pacific Institute

College/Degree: University of California, Davis, Bachelor of Science in Animal Science

Occupation: Veterinary assistant

Hobbies: Snorkeling, traveling, painting, arts and crafts, shopping and eating cake

How do you live “kaizen,” continuous growth/improvement, in your daily life?

“As a recent college graduate, I have faced many challenges along the way. I have been pushed to the limit in courses and struggled with balancing school, work and club activities. But throughout this ongoing journey, I embrace each step and strive to do my best by making every day a learning opportunity. Now that I am a veterinary assistant, I see first hand how a veterinarian can make a difference. Whether it be by doing dental procedures on a dog or cutting a cat’s nails, I do my best to contribute by improving the quality of life for animals. Even after I achieve my goal of becoming a veterinarian, I must always keep an open mind to learning and adapting to changes. By persevering, being self-motivated, and facing each obstacle with a determined attitude, I live ‘kaizen.’”

68th Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Hailey Pedersen
Hailey Pedersen


High School: Roosevelt High School

College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies, Masters in Public Health specializing in Social and Behavioral Health Sciences

Occupation: Advisor

Hobbies: Dancing, trying new crafts, spending time with friends and family

How do you live “kaizen,” continuous growth/improvement, in your daily life?

“After graduating with my Masters, ‘kaizen’ has become especially relevant and meaningful in my transition from academics to a career. I’ve realized that life unfolds with so many unpredictable variables, that in addition to hard work, learning from failures as well as successes is an extremely important practice.

“My mother says, ‘It’s not about failing.  It’s about how you come out of it that defines what you’re made of.’ It hasn’t been easy facing challenges in both life and work, but I have come to understand that what I used to view as mistakes, are my moments for growth. Embracing that mindset, and knowing that I have the ability to choose my outlook, and change the path I want to take, has been an empowering lesson that I remind myself to live by every day.”


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