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The Write Stuff: Young essayists respond to Rotary challenge

High school students were invited last spring by the Rotary Club of White Rock to write essays on items that they read in Peace Arch News.

They came, they read, they wrote.

South Surrey high school students were invited last spring by the Rotary Club of White Rock to write essays on items that they read in Peace Arch News – from news reports to opinion pieces to feature stories – for a chance at cash prizes.

And Earl Marriott Secondary students responded en masse, submitting more than 50 essays in all, on topics ranging from transgender bathrooms to transportation needs to cultural acceptance.

The top three entries selected by judges 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; matching amounts were donated to EMS.

In launching the competition, organizers said it arose from a discussion of newspapers, and touted it as a way to boost literacy in local youth.

“I see with my own grandkids that the written word seems to be disappearing. You’ve got to put it in (140) characters or you don’t have anything,” Fred McCreath told PAN last April, referring to the limit Twitter puts on tweets.

“The kids at a minimum will become more aware of the issues and what’s going on in the community.”

Piloted by the Rotary club, in partnership with PAN and the school district, the competition students 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. Writers were encouraged to acknowledge various sides to the chosen issues, and to state their opinions clearly.

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.

1. Claudine Paed

In reading Alison Prentice’s letter to the editor, regarding the trains in White Rock (Train blasts driving us away, April 22 ), I found myself truly appreciating Prentice’s word choice.

She illustrates the train sounds as “intrusive,” “ludicrous” and “relentless,” among many other descriptors. Her eloquent writing style and voice successfully display her utter disdain for the noise that trains make when they run through the White Rock coast.

This is perfectly understandable – as she argues, for many, the train sounds can be quite disruptive through the day, and in the evening when people wish to unwind.

The “peace and quiet” atmosphere appeals to many, and therefore some may find the horns jarring and unsettling.

It’s hard, however, to imagine that someone might move into the White Rock area without realizing that trains regularly pass through on the beach railway. Moreover, citizens have undoubtedly become accustomed to this. According to several residents, they can sleep through train sounds in the night without difficulty; there are some who even find them relaxing. It’s part of the charm of this city.

There will always be people who want to break the rules. Always. So naturally, there are going to be people loitering around the train tracks at night. Some may be there for reasons other than sheer recklessness—an unsupervised child, those with impaired judgement, a confused wanderer. This isn’t something we can avoid, so it’s reasonable for the council to allow “train blasts” overnight.

I think it’s worth sacrificing “peaceful enjoyment of one’s home” if it means saving a life. If we aren’t a “nanny state” to a certain degree, we create a dangerous environment. I think it’s acceptable to not like how loud the trains are; however, it does not follow that we have to abolish them altogether.

Until they find a way to make train tracks safer without needing to use noise alerts, I believe it wise to adapt to the world we are presented.

All in all, Canadians shall continue to practise their freedom of movement, be it by trains or to escape trains. But if we choose to linger on trivial annoyances, we choose to waste valuable time growing angry in a life of negativity and miss out on joyful moments—or “idyllic seaside towns.”

Everything is subjective; and for many, new and unique experiences can be bearable and even enjoyable.

 

2. Molly Fizzard

Is the amount of gang violence in Surrey a Surrey problem or a British Columbia problem?

Over the years, gang violence has become a huge issue in Surrey. It’s gotten so out of control that Surrey’s reputation is now solely based off of this misconception.

The amount of violence in this otherwise beautiful city has consumed the area so much so that even people from across the country consider Surrey a dangerous place to live.

However, the ongoing debate is if gang violence should be a problem for just the city or the entire province. Because this is a problem on a municipal level, it should be an issue for the municipal government to take care of. On the other hand, taxpayers from all over the province are helping to fund a new police force to take care of this matter in question.

The government could potentially be taking away from other problems in the province if they put most of their focus into more safety in this one community. Just because one town is suffering doesn’t mean that the whole province will crumble, however if a small part of the province is suffering, shouldn’t we all be helping?

If not for the town itself then at least for our reputation, we should be more involved as a community rather than leaving safety up to only the police.

The amount of pride that we have for our province can hopefully help to overpower the gang violence and promote change. If we all come together, we can potentially fix the ongoing problem of gang violence in Surrey.

 

 

3. Kiera Clark

 

Last week, a proposal for three 25-storey buildings was presented to White Rock’s economic investment committee (White Rock eyes 25-storey towers, April 20).

This has led to controversy among members of the community.

Those opposed to the proposal maintain that White Rock should remain a small, scenic town with an ocean view. Opponents strongly believe that the skyline should stay where it is, because the ocean is one of White Rock’s main attractions. For these individuals, “building up” would ruin White Rock’s quaint, family feel. They’re driven by nostalgia and a desire to retain the White Rock of their childhood.

However, those in favour of the proposal believe that in building up, we are providing more living space while still conserving land and saving trees, thereby protecting one of British Columbia’s most important resources. Building the towers will encourage population growth, promote job creation and increase available office space, which in turn encourages companies to choose White Rock as a location of business. As such, allowing development of this kind may help to stimulate the economy, by bringing in more people to live, work and shop in White Rock.

In my opinion, I believe we should put this proposal into action, because not only will it benefit the community, it will also benefit anyone wanting to move to White Rock. Just because buildings are being constructed does not mean we will lose our ocean view or the warm, family feel of our town.

In building up, we are enriching the community. We are not competing with other cities, we are simply providing our town and growing population with more personal and economic benefits.

 

4. Zachary Sheppard

Is the Lower Mainland ready for another million people? Estimates show that there will be a projected one million new residents in Metro Vancouver by 2041. Transportation infrastructure, especially Tranklink expansions, will be required for this rapidly increasing demographic (Surrey LRT estimate climbs $460 million, March 9.)

With the steady increase of population in Surrey due to housing affordability and jobs created by local businesses, the city will undergo heavy infrastructure renovations to accommodate the 300,000 estimated new residents by 2041.

The current transportation system is decaying and inadequate, which is a problem that will greatly worsen with the oncoming population growth.

With the inevitable expansion of the Fraser Valley, Vancouver will become a suburb of Surrey. With 1000 new residents each month, the city council is working hard at solutions to accommodate this rapid expansion with limited resources. TransLink has set in motion plans for two LRT lines in Surrey that provide high quality, efficient and environmentally friendly means for long term transit. TransLink has proved great success with LRT systems in the past, such as the expo line in 1986 and the millennium line in 2004. The Canada line during the Winter Olympics in 2010 was a major success with it connecting the Vancouver International Airport to the downtown core.

The cost however for these lines and revamping of infrastructure is where the dilemma begins. The initial $2.14 billion cost for the LRT lines has jumped by $460 million since last year’s referendum due to the rising cost of land and inflation. The federal government has tried to address these problems through carbon taxes, parking levies and insurance premiums.

The problem is, no one wants to pay the price for these inflated goods and services. TransLink critics have also cited some wastefulness of resources such as purchasing unused office space and overpaid executives.

It’s a given that Surrey desperately needs this infrastructure for the future. The challenge is, where to get the resources?

A viable option is to use the private sector to make investments into these transportation projects such as investment companies did for the Canada Line. Regardless of the obstacles, whether political or financial, these projects need to go forward for now and for future generations.

 

 

5. Brennen Little

 

As a chaotic, sloppy, election heats up in the United States, one particular issue has recently been sweeping political debates and rallies —transgender bathrooms.

These issues started cropping up in North Carolina in March when the state made it mandatory for transgendered people to use public bathrooms that corresponded only to the gender found on their birth certificates, Mississippi followed quickly and filed the same legislation.

The actions taken by these states were so deplorable that prominent figures and corporations refused to bring their business there. These boycotters included the $50-billion discount retailer, Target, and distinguished director Rob Reiner, who said he will not film in North Carolina until “this hateful law is repealed.”

Similar to the Niqab controversies during our federal election, the transgender bathroom debate is nothing more than a talking point. It consistently takes away from the acknowledgement of issues plaguing America which are far more complicated to resolve, such as immigration and health care.

It is disheartening that political races all over the world can be dragged through the mud by arguments that high school students can and do resolve. These are matters of contention so regularly brought up, but that continually have no conceivable substance. These issues become nonsensically over exaggerated when run through weeks, or even months, of political debate.

Getting to the heart of these controversies is something that the politicians in question never seem to do. This, fueled with hateful name-calling and general immaturity, creates an environment that in no way, shape or form, fosters nuanced discussion about subjects that will affect us for years to come. It seems that this year it is unfortunately “transgender people who are being used as a kind of political football” (Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law).

Thankfully, as Canadians, we can breathe a sigh of relief as even our high schools have begun making important steps towards equality.

One school in particular, Lord Tweedsmuir, has implemented an all-gender bathroom, shattering the stigma and awkwardness that surrounds the controversy (All-gender restroom ‘a step forward,’ May 11). It’s simply breathtaking that the youth of our community are engaged enough to have their voice heard through three years of determined lobbying, a feat that should be not be overlooked and that American politicians would do well to take a lesson from.

Hopefully the progressive actions taken by a resolute group of students at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary will ripple throughout our communities and create a safe environment that everyone deserves.

 

 

6. Miranda Clark

 

Sunnyside Elementary is receiving a lot more students next year (School braces for massive growth, April 22). They have already enrolled 112 kindergarten students for 2016/17. This means five or six full classes. The school is now overcapacity and will have four more portables added. This clearly shows how overcrowded South Surrey schools are becoming.

Schools in Surrey are overflowing with 232 portables, which are classrooms to approximately 7,000 students at any given time on an average school day. Having overcrowded schools may appear to be good for the economy, but does not give students a strong educational foundation.

Overpopulating schools appears beneficial for the economy because it costs money to build schools, pay additional teachers, principals, education assistants and custodians. Instead, the government saves money by having giant classes and adding numerous portables to exiting schools.

Unfortunately, instead of building necessary new schools, we are building more houses, which ironically provide extra money for the government while increasing the demand for schools.

Having overpopulated schools should not be tolerated in a wealthy area where we can easily afford to build more.

There are many negative effects of overcrowding.

When schools are overcapacity, they can become unpleasant places to be. The hallways are crowded and kids have to walk to portables in cold, rainy weather where they feel separated from the rest of school community.

Also, the number of students in each classroom is maximized. This lessens the one-on-one relationship between students and their teacher, which is very valuable for children’s learning.

Lastly, numerous Surrey schools have double schedules, making some students start very early in the morning. Studies show that teenagers’ natural clock doesn’t fit with an early schedule, so they will always be lacking sleep and won’t learn effectively.

 

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