A specially painted Alaska Airlines jet adorned with a Honolulu high school student’s winning design honoring the culture of the Aloha State touched down Monday in Honolulu before a crowd of students, educators and travelers. The unique paint theme, dubbed the “Spirit of the Islands,” was created by 17-year-old Aaron Nee.
Nee’s design was selected from among more than 2,700 submissions by students across the Hawaiian Islands in a statewide “Paint-the-Plane” contest sponsored by Alaska Airlines, in partnership with the Hawaii State Department of Education and Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. A 10-member judging panel, comprised of Hawaii artists, educators and other local community members, carefully scored and selected the three top designs, which were then voted on by Hawaii residents in an online public vote.
As the grand prize winner, Nee received a trip for four to any of the carrier’s destinations and a $5,000 scholarship.
“This has been an incredible opportunity to share Hawaii’s beauty with people throughout the country,” said Nee. “This contest helped me to sharpen my graphic design skills and demonstrated that with hard work, attention to detail and determination, great things are possible.”
Nee’s winning design displays a voyaging canoe depicting the cultural diversity of the islands, a bright yellow hibiscus (the state flower), the Hawaiian Island chain and the phrase “Spirit of the Islands.”
The soon-to-be Kaiser High School senior is a nearly straight-A student and a decorated member of the school’s Air Force ROTC program. Known for his artistic ability and interest in graphic design and athletics, Nee said he plans to invest his $5,000 for college and take his family to visit relatives in New York, where he hopes to see snow for the first time.
The “Spirit of the Islands” Boeing 737-800 was revealed to Nee at Honolulu International Airport, where he was joined by his parents, Robin and Mitch Connell, and father Aaron Garrett Nee, as well as Hawaii Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui , Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney , Kaiser High School Principal John Sosa and several of Nee’s teachers. Also joining the welcoming ceremony were the 12 finalists and honorable mention winners, who received prizes and scholarships for their entries.
Story and photo by Alaska Airlines