by Nadia Diakun-Thibault
Without a doubt, given an opportunity and a challenge, Kemptville’s youth can demonstrate depth of creativity, thought, and sensitivity. The challenge was the Rotary Essay Competition 2021, sponsored by the Egg Farmers of Ontario.
Three broadly scoped topics were the challenge seeds for the Rotary Essay Competition: My Covid Experience; Pets and Animals; The Future. The set word count for two designated age groups was the only limitation.
As years pass, if we are attentive, we observe the consequences and impacts of our actions. In 2019, the SARS-CoV2 upended plans, ushered in stressors many could not have imagined or expected, and affected, to lesser or greater degrees, both young and old.
Matthew Craddock reminded us that, “…we aren’t in control of our lives, but we are impacted by society and the changes that affect it.” Theresa Ferguson underscored hope. “It’s never easy, but, regardless of these horrible circumstances, we can: make good memories, experience pain; and learn from any and every event that occurs,” she wrote in her essay,My Covid Experience.
To capture the lighter and simply joyful moments that come with unexpected visitors in the family swimming pool, Sophia Blakey’s The Aquatic Relay: A Thousand Assorted Tails describes a mission to save the visitors. “We scooped up some of the water to cool the stones where our knees rested, and, with the heat and humidity pressing at our backs, we dove our hands into the water and cupped the tadpoles that lingered close to the surface.”
In imagining the future, one can envision a multiplicity of possible events. From fantasy to analytical projection, from science-fiction to apocalyptic futures. Eliza Hopkins sends us to the year 2074 and the realization of her central character, Laec. “It came as a jolt to him, to hear his own voice after so much silence. ‘We’re all that’s left… it’s just us’”, in The Future Nobody Wanted.
Sometimes, we need to refresh the warnings of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and arrive at Kestral Schwartzenhauer’s analysis in Animal Story Brief: “Animal farm only displays some of the most prominent dangers of being uneducated, such as being easily manipulated, social inequality, or ignorance. George Orwell’s novella tells us that society needs to change something.”
While the above excerpts are taken from the finalists, the judges can attest to the variety and ingenuity of all the young writers who submitted an essay.
These excepts prove that there is no shortage of creative and artistic talent among today’s youth. All they need is the opportunity to express themselves in art, writing, dance, theatre, or music.
Winners of the 2021 Rotary Essay Competition were:
GROUP 1 – Aged 10-13
1. Theresa Ferguson, “My Covid Experience”
2. Juliet Godwin-Sens, “Disney Paints the Future”
3. Matthew Craddock, “My Covid-19 Experience”
GROUP 2 – Aged 14-18
1. Sophia Blakey, “The Aquatic Relay. A Thousand Assorted Tails
2. Eliza Hopkins, “The Future Nobody Wanted”
3. Kestral Schwartzenhauer, “Animal Story Brief”
David Peltier of Rotary, and Helen Pethick of KYC welcomed the winners and their families to the presentation ceremony that was held at the Kemptville Youth Center on September 21. John Beking, representing the Egg Farmers of Ontario, presented the prizes to the winners.
The judges were Brian Arleth, Kemptville Youth Centre (KYC); Maggie Boyer, North Grenville Times; and Nadia Diakun-Thibault, Rotary.
Bruce Wehlau thanked the Rotary Club, NG Times, and the Egg Farmers of Ontario for their generous sponsorship of Rotary Essay Competition. “We were very happy that three of the youth who volunteered consistently for book collecting/sorting for the Annual Kemptville Book Fair were among the winners of this year’s competition,” said Bruce.