Winners of the Rotary Club of White Rock's first essay competition were celebrated in an Oct. 27 ceremony at Earl Marriott Secondary.

Student writers celebrated at EMS

Rotary Club of White Rock essay contest aimed to encourage literacy

A writing competition sparked by a desire to help boost literacy in local youth will be repeated, organizers say.

“Our idea is to continue to do this year after year,” Raj Rajagopal, president of the Rotary Club of White Rock, said last week.

“I think it was well-received.”

Rajagopal was among Rotary, Peace Arch News and school district officials on hand Thursday morning at Earl Marriott Secondary to recognize 12 of the more than four dozen students who took up the challenge of the club’s first essay contest.

Piloted by the Rotary club, in partnership with PAN and the school district, the competition invited youth to write a 250- to 400-word opinion piece based on anything of interest to them that had been published in the PAN since March 1 – from news reports to opinion pieces to feature stories – for a chance at cash prizes.

EMS students responded with submissions on topics ranging from transgender bathrooms to transportation to cultural acceptance.

Rotarian Bert Coates – noting he spent more than 30 years in journalism – was one of three judges who pored over the entries, and said he was impressed by those who took the task to heart.

“It was kind of neat to see some of the kids’ writing, and voicing an opinion – which I think was more important,” Coates said last week.

“I think they did a good job.”

The top three entries addressed, in order, train noise, gang violence and highrise development.

Claudine Paed, 17, Molly Fizzard, 17, and Kiera Clark, 15, each received cash prizes for their submissions – $1,000 for first place, $750 for second and $500 for third.

Coates said the cash winners were “very happy kids” Thursday.

At the same time, he believes the essay project achieved what was intended.

“We basically wanted to stimulate some of the high school kids… to voice their concerns,” he said.

“Don’t keep (concerns or opinions) bottled up in inside you… put them down on paper and send them to somebody.”

Rajagopal agreed.

He hopes to announce details of the next essay competition in November, including that submissions will be invited from all five local high schools – EMS, Elgin Park, Semiahmoo, Panorama and Sullivan.

“We will do it so the kids will have the time to write the essays in the spring and we will try to give out the prizes before the school closes,” Rajagopal said.

Other EMS students whose entries stood out to the judging panel included Zachary Sheppard, Brennen Little, Miranda Clark, James Hill, Chris Kallio, Anahi Palomec, Cindy Zhang, Robyn Sundar and Janelle Ecalne.

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