The Rotary Club of White Rock is partnering with Peace Arch News for an essay contest, for Grade 11 students on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, offering sizable cash prizes.
Project team members Raj Rajogopal and Jack Rae, both past presidents of the club, said the contest – seeking short essays based on current local issues recently reported in PAN – dovetails with the ongoing Rotary International initiative to promote education and literacy.
Deadline for essays is May 31, and the contest offers a $1,000 first prize, with $500 for second prize and $300 for third prize recipients. The top essays will be published in PAN print and online editions, with the possibility of other deserving entries being published online only.
The contest, which is being co-ordinated through the English departments of South Surrey secondary schools, is an expansion of a pilot project conducted the last two years at Earl Marriott Secondary.
“We offered it to six area high schools, but two – White Rock Christian Academy and Elgin Park Secondary – declined,” Rajogopal said.
“The participating schools this year are Semiahmoo Secondary, Earl Marriott, Southridge School and the South Surrey-White Rock Learning Centre.”
Rajogopal said it’s not only winning students who will benefit from the contest, but also the schools’ English departments.
“We said the school from which each winner comes will get the equal amount of prize money, which gives each school an incentive to participate.”
Essay entries must be approved and submitted by each school, and judging will take place in June, Rajogopal and Rae said.
“For this year, we restructured it to be for Grade 11 students only,” Rae said.
“We were finding that, if we had Grade 12 winners, it was getting too difficult to contact them once the judging was complete – they were already moving on to post-secondary education, often out of the area.”
The contest is asking for opinion pieces of between 400 and 600 words, and students are encouraged to consider opposing sides to their opinions, Rajogopal and Rae said.
“It’s not just about writing skills – we want to encourage the students to read articles from the paper and to be analytical,” Rae added.
Rajogopal and Rae said they also envision growing the contest into an event that goes beyond literary prowess.
“The club is exploring the possibility of expanding the contest to include financial literacy as well, possibly with assistance from the provincial government,” Rajogopal said.
The club, which made $48,000 from its recent book sale, will also be conducting another wine and beer garden at Five Corners as part of the TD Concerts series this summer.
Rajogopal estimated that total funds raised by the club during the year will reach $100,000, of which 70 per cent will go to local community services, and 30 per cent will be assigned to overseas projects.