Winners of the Compassion in Action Contest!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Compassion In Action Contest. Read the winning essays below!
Inspirations: Compassion in Action
Student Name School Board Title of Submission
Annika Singh Beaconsfield HS LBPSB My Wonder Woman
Zoe Koryszko Howard S Billings HS NFSB A Camp that is Changing Lives
Lily Coupal Howard S Billings HS NFSB Tyson's Wish
Derrah Grégoire Howard S Billings HS NFSB The Importance of a Personal Hero, My Father
Erika Lanthier Howard S Billings HS NFSB Chateauguay Hope Bank
Justine Poulin Howard S Billings HS NFSB A Dancing Heart
Victoria Walker Howard S Billings HS NFSB An Angel from Above
Annie Gouchee Kuper Academy Private My Parents…Helping Me Help Others
Melissa Landry Metis Beach ESSB My Passion for Sports and Fitness
Anna Guest St Thomas HS LBPSB My Brother Patrick
Misha Fotovati St Thomas HS LBPSB Malala Yousafzai
Tobias Meyer St. Lambert International HS RSB White Rose


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Listen to what some of our students have to say about their experience at Encounters with Canada 

Read what students have to say about their experience at Encounters With Canada


The theme that I chose was health and medicine. I truly couldn’t have picked a better week. We get to do lot of amazing activities, each one taught me something new. Like the visit to the Wabano centre for traditional medicine and seminars about art therapy and what it would be like in a real situation to work with other doctors to diagnose a patient. As well as fun outings like and escape room and glow in the dark mini golf!



The week that I attended Encounters with Canada was a week filled with experiences and opportunities like never before. Touching the infamous Grey Cup, meeting the Governor General, Julie Payette, in her own residence, and being invited as special guests to the #Bringiton event at the TD place in Ottawa were activities that were uniquely available during the week I went. It was a wonderful coincidence that the Sports and Fitness week I attended happened to be during the Grey Cup Festival in Ottawa.


I am one of the many lucky people that has gone to Encounters with Canada thanks to you. I am incredibly grateful for the experience and I cannot thank you enough. I am writing to tell you a little about my experience, but also to say thank you.


Just last week I got to participate in what was the best week in my life. I was given the opportunity from LEARN to attend a week at encounters with Canada through the compassion in action contest. Throughout my stay at encounters I got to meet so many people from all over Canada, including a lot of people from my home province Quebec. I got to meet two other winners from the LEARN compassion in action contest (Annika and Misha).

My Wonder Woman by Annika Singh


EWC Winner Annika Singh

A leader is a person who guides a group by establishing a movement for others to follow willingly. They are best known for motivating, inspiring and helping others (‘’). Those people are leaders and it is without doubt that I can assure you that we all have at least one leader in our lives that we look up to, whether a family member, friend, teacher or other. For me, my older sister Pamela Singh is a leader. She is a great leader because of her character, her contributions to the people she surrounds and her constant support for me.

Pamela Singh is known as a hard working woman who is always motivated to meet her goals of becoming successful. She is willing to make many sacrifices, and growing up I have witnessed many of them. Being the oldest child in my family, she naturally received the responsibilities from a very young age of setting a good role model for myself and my younger brother. As a result, this shaped her to become a better leader because she knew she had the role of guiding her younger siblings properly. Through it all, Pamela has always taught me to be kind, humble and very curious. She has taught me to never give up and never let anyone stand in the pathway towards my goals and success.

She taught me what is right and what is wrong. Pamela always had my back and she is always there whenever I need her, whether it comes to homework help or life advice. Pamela is willing to make many sacrifices and growing up I have witnessed many of them.

Furthermore, Pamela is a very generous person who enjoys giving back to her community and making others happy, which had a huge positive effect on my life, as well. Pamela was actively involved in her high school and she continues to be involved in University. She participated in the “Youth in Action” challenge where she did more than 40 hours of volunteering at Beaconsfield High School. As a reward for her efforts, she received the Pierre Duchesne Lieutenant Governor’s bronze medal. One of her most inspirational accomplishments happened in grade seven when she was in a group called Techno Squad at Beaconsfield High School. This group of students were the go-to team for all of the teachers at school who were experiencing technical difficulties with their computers or Smart Boards. Her idea was outstandingly successful and it earned her and her team $2,000 from the Quebec Entrepreneurship Contest. As a result, this money was contributed to Beaconsfield High School and Montreal Children's Hospital. All of these achievements were inspired by Pamela’s qualities and leadership skills!

In addition, Pamela has experienced many of the emotions and events that I am feeling right now and she is able to be a great support. The last month has already been a stressful time due to many assignments and classes where I’ve felt completely burnt out.  I talked to my older sister and she helped me complete many of my tasks. Although she didn’t take the tests for me, do my homework for me or come to class for me, she always took the extra time to make sure I understood my notes and she offered to tutor me with the topics that I struggle with. Her encouraging words followed me everywhere I went.  I deeply admire her ability to boost my confidence and she is definitely the best at giving a pep talk!

In conclusion, my older sister Pamela has been my leader from the beginning and her motivation and strong character have always inspired me to be the type of person I wish to become. I believe a leader is someone who you can look up to when you’re struggling or when you need some inspiration and guidance when making decisions (‘’).

We all have and need at least one leader or someone who we look up to be the “Wonder Woman” in our lives!

Bibliography:, Do you know this term? September 08, 2017

Srivastava Animesh,, What-is-the-symbolism-of-Wonder-Woman-as-a-character, January 20, 2014

A Camp That's Changing Lives by Zoe Koryszko

EWC Essayist, Zoe KoryszkoMore than 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes affects mostly children, adolescents and young adults. It can be especially difficult for kids and teenagers to adjust, and to feel comfortable being diabetic and being different. Camp Carowanis is a camp for type 1 diabetics between the ages of 7-16. It’s run by the Diabetes Foundation to improve the lives of diabetic children across Quebec by showing their compassion in many ways.  Even I have been lucky enough to have experienced the compassion Camp Carowanis has for diabetic children.

The Diabetes Foundation created Camp Carowanis in 1958 to help better the lives of type 1 diabetics across Quebec. Their mission is to give kids a unique experience, and they’ve been doing that each summer for the past 59 years. They want kids to feel more accepted with being diabetic and with all the support they give, they make over 400 kids per summer have this amazing experience. One really important thing they do is to help these kids to break the feeling of isolation, because believe it or not, so many kids feel alone because they’re different from everyone else. Some kids are even bullied or misunderstood. It gives the kids the experience to be with people exactly like them and who understand what it’s like to live with diabetes. They create friendships that last forever and get to feel “normal” for a couple of weeks; it’s a blessing in disguise. Every child that goes to this camp gets this once in a life time experience, and no diabetic child is ever refused to go for any reason.

Camp Carowanis has been showing their compassion towards type 1 diabetic kids since 1958. Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, every kid who applies to go to the camp, gets to go. That’s because cost is not an issue. The actual cost for one kid to go for a two-week stay is over $3,000, for food, housing, medical supplies, medical staff and other things necessary to run a camp, especially a camp for diabetics. However, even though the cost for one child is so expensive, the Diabetes Foundation covers a portion of the cost, which reduces the total cost to around $900. The cost can still be a lot for some families, which is why the foundation offers financial aid and even pays for some kids to be able to go whose parents really can’t afford it. No child is ever refused for financial reasons, and that’s the major thing that makes Camp Carowanis so compassionate. They literally think of everyone. They care so much about the experience the kids will have and want to ensure that they have fun, that  the higher up staff spends all year figuring out ways to make the upcoming summer even better than the last, and every summer is really always ten times better than the last one.

This camp has a special place in my heart. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on January 19th, 2006 at the age of 5 years old. It was hard for my parents to wrap their heads around it and with me being so young I didn’t understand what was going on. I was bullied a bit for being different as many kids didn’t understand what diabetes was. They were jealous that I got to eat a snack in class when no one else was allowed, or for getting to skip the lunch detention that the whole class had because I had to eat at a specific time. It got better once I went to high school as people understand things more once you’re older. I won’t lie and say it was easy because it wasn’t, but when the times were tough, I thought of Camp Carowanis. I started going to this camp at the age of 8. The camp gave me my happy place, a place where I could feel “normal” and meet people just like me. I actually met one of my best friends there when I was 10, and we’re still close to this day. By going to this camp over the years, it really taught me how to better manage my diabetes, to be more confident, create ever lasting friendships and memories, and the most important thing is it taught me to embrace my diabetes and not to hide it.

In conclusion, Camp Carowanis is a non-profit organization created by the Diabetes Foundation. Every summer, they make kids feel more confident and give them an amazing experience. They show their compassion by showing how money is no issue. They put so much money into the camp that they’re changing the lives of type 1 diabetics, and having gone there for the past 9 years I know that they really do change the lives of type 1 diabetic children for the past 59 summers and many more to come. They truly are compassionate and do amazing things. It’s my happy place.

Tyson's Wish by Lily Coupal

EWC Essayist Lily CoupalTyson is a man with a goal. I took part in the achievement of that goal and I’m proud to have participated. Over the course of this essay you will come to realize what that goal is, but I’m not going to tell you until the end; just to keep it interesting. Tyson’s goal is what lead me to being the person I am today. Tyson’s love of sailing, great advice-giving and consideration allowed him to complete his goal while learning to be the best version of himself he could be. I’m just along for the ride.

Tyson and I share our love of sailing; that’s what first made us walk together that day on the beach. It was a beautifully windy day. We had just gotten back to shore and my crew and I were still energized from the force of the wind, as well as my piloting. Tyson was concerned about the sailboat we had just disembarked, since one of the rudders (part in the water, connected to the back and steers the boat) had come off due to an untightened screw. Everyone at the sailing camp had been taught the proper safety procedures when on the water, so he knew everyone on the boat was safe. I was thirteen when I started my second year of camp. Still small for my age, I was probably one of the youngest sailors that could pilot pretty much any boat well. I have Tyson to thank for that. He taught me everything I know to this date about sailing. I walked into camp that first year terrified of sailing, since I almost drowned when I got stuck under a sail at the last summer camp I went to. I think that’s understandable. Tyson’s love for sailing connected with me on some level, and over the years I started loving sailing more than I ever thought I could. Tyson was and continues to this day to be a great mentor. He pushes me to succeed and to know my limits as well as he does. He was the one who made me understand the difference between sailing to the limit and sailing for the limit, which I will explain later. He can be infuriating at times, as anyone can, but after a few years of friendship we understand each other and we know each others’ limits. He knows how hard to push to make me understand his notions and I know how hard to push to infuriate him just a little.

            Tyson’s impact on my life could immediately be seen in my sailing ability which greatly improved. His compassion for sailing was guiding me through my tough times without Tyson even realizing his effect on me. I remember there was this one rough patch that really hit me hard, but Tyson surprised me again with his aptitude for giving great advice. I had never really known about his skill with words but when I figured it out, I soon found myself confiding in him. The advice he gave me could have been someone’s “regular, polite, advice,” but his words resonated with me. Although he never wanted to make my decisions for me, his words were pushing me to act: to take my space in the world and to be confident in everything I did, because I knew who I was and I could do whatever I set my mind to. Whenever I was struggling, Tyson was there to help me know what I wanted and make my decision from there. This didn’t only occur within the world of sailing. Tyson helped me with everything going on in my life and continues to help me. The best part is that he’s so polite and he always makes sure that he wasn’t asking questions that were too personal. He always seemed to give me just the advice I needed to conclude my next steps.

Tyson taught me something that I now share with the kids at sailing camp. I mentioned it above when I started talking about sailing to the limit and sailing for the limit. Sailing to the limit is playing it safe, much like driving under the speed limit just to be safe. Never doing more than required, but just enough to get you through the day and get to where you want to go. Sailing for the limit is the opposite. To sail for the limit is to go out on the water and try something you thought was impossible just for the thrill of it. The part where you make what you thought was impossible happen is the best; the look on your face it worth everything. Sailing for the limit is trying to know your boat to the best of your abilities: how it reacts to wind gusts, waves, and weight; but also how much you have you pull in your main sail and how much you must pull to turn your boat around. I teach sailors this at camp. At first, they have no idea what I’m talking about, but it’s great to see that as I sail with them, they start to understand. Honestly, most of the kids probably think I’m crazy for half the maneuvers I can do on a sail boat. I wouldn’t be here teaching kids if it weren’t for Tyson and the knowledge he passed down to me from years of experience.

            Tyson has that adult vibe going on, but it’s very subtle and only appears when he’s teaching. With no background in teaching or psychology, I honestly don’t know how Tyson knows his students so well. He just seems to understand no matter what the circumstances. He no doubt understands me the best out of everyone I know at sailing camp. He knows my strengths in sailing and outside of camp, as if I’ve told him everything about myself when I know I haven’t. Tyson just always seems to know when I’m feeling down, it’s like he has a sixth sense for when someone doesn’t feel like themselves. It’s kind of like my sailing radar, when there’s a storm coming I always seem to know before the weather radar or anyone else does. This one time we had about fifty clients on the water and there was nothing on the radar about a storm, but I just knew. So, before I went out on the water I went to see Tyson and I told him that there was a storm coming. I expected it was twenty minutes away from our location. Twenty minutes later I’m standing on the beach and there is Tyson just standing there looking at me and shaking his head, calling me insane. Tyson was always there no matter what, never judging me and always helping me achieve my goals. Not only is he there for me, but he’s there for all the other sailors as well. I’ve learnt from his teachings and can use them to help the other sailors whenever they need it.

Now it’s time to explain Tyson’s goal in doing all of this. What he wanted to do was to create a family-like sailing environment where everyone felt safe enough to talk to anyone about something that was greatly affecting their lives. I’m so utterly proud that I could participate in the achievement of Tyson’s goal after everything he’s done for me. There are really no words I could use to describe how I feel about the situation. I know that Tyson will continue to change peoples’ lives as monumentally as he changed mine, and I’m glad for it. Tyson’s compassion in sailing changed not only my life, but the lives of the sailors around us. He continues to amaze me with his perseverance, consideration, and aptitude for great advice. Also, I hope he will continue to amaze the world with his goals as he has done with me.

Great job Tyson... we need more people like you in this world. Keep up the good work and never forget to sail for the limit. Be courageous, adventurous, intuitive and most of all, compassionate in your goals and achievements and in your will to make our world a better place. The world is what you make of it ;)

The Importance of a Personal Hero, My Father by Derrah Grégoire

EWC Essayist Derrah GrégoireMost people would say that their hero is a superhero, an athlete or a celebrity. However, my hero is none of the above. Instead, he’s a hard-working person who taught me many important life lessons, such as confidence, independence and strength. My hero is my father.

The first lesson he taught me was confidence, which is super important to have, especially when growing up. As a child, I struggled with mathematics so much so that I was failing second grade math, which lead to me feeling like a failure and bit of an outsider as I watched everyone around me pass math with flying colours. However, instead of letting me fall through the cracks, he helped me with everything. What I mean by this is that he helped me with my homework every day, sent me to tutoring and fought for my recognition in class (because most teachers overlooked my struggling due to the fact that I was a good student in class). When all those tactics failed he fought to have me switched to a different school despite me not living in the school zone that meant I could attend the school. By doing this, he not only allowed me to improve all my grades but also make some much-needed new friends. Switching schools allowed me to get away from some of the children in my class who teased and taunted me about how short and stupid I was because of my size and trouble in math. With all the taunting about my math skills from other students, I began to believe that I was truly ‘dumb’ as they said and that I wouldn’t have a future. Despite what all the other children said, he always told me not to listen to what they said. As long as I was happy with what I did and I worked hard for it, I would be better off. And that right there has stuck with me for all sixteen years of my life.

Most daughters say that they dislike their dads and fight with them all the time, which in most cases is true. For example, my two best friends always fight with their dads. However, for me it’s a little different. Yes, we do butt heads, which leads to my second point on independence. When I was little (around five) my father taught me how to ride my bike with training wheels. However, once he took the training wheels off I refused to ride my bike despite my dad trying to teach me. And when I say refused, I mean for a whole five years! So at ten years old I decided that it was time for me to learn how to ride my bike (mainly because all my friends where biking everywhere and my parents had to drive me everywhere). That day, I remember going into the garage and taking the super little pink bike and getting on it only to fall over because I couldn’t balance on it properly. My dad offered me help and, of course, I refused it until I was at the end of the driveway and had fallen for about the fifth time. Finally, I gave in to letting my dad teach me how to ride my bike. A few days later I was a ‘pro’ and my dad took me to pick out a brand new bike and I was free to bike wherever I wanted with my friends (as long as I was back by curfew). In the summer of 2016, after a year of begging my parents to get me a dog for my birthday, they did (even though my mom didn’t want another dog), however, there was a catch. My dad told me that the dog was my responsibility and that I would have to take care of him. He gave me a book so that I could learn how to train and look after my dog, as well as a few tips from his own experience. For the next few months, I had to train the dog not to do his business inside the house, take him out side when he had to ‘go’, punish him when he chewed up the couch, clean up after him and many more activities that come with owning a puppy. Some may be wondering ‘what does this have to do with independence?’ So here’s why. Owning the puppy taught me how to look after another living animal, as well as myself, which is a lot of work as many of you may know. The most recent lesson of independence that my father gave me was when he and my mother left for Turks and Caicos. I was left home alone for a week and a bit (and relatives doing random check ups) with a list of chores I had to do while they were gone. In that time I had to take care of the dogs, go to school, get to my driving classes, make meals and take care of the house all on my own. It was the most terrifying and exhilarating thing that has ever happened to me. It was as if I was living on my own.

Finally, the last and in my opinion most important lesson my father taught me was strength. I don’t mean physical strength, but emotional strength. He taught me this in his own way that he probably doesn’t realize. In ninth grade he told me that there was a very high possibility that we were going to move from our hometown in Quebec all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia. And to be honest that terrified me. I didn’t want to leave everything I ever know. He assured me that even if we did move, we would be together and that I would make new friends and that everything would be okay, so I put on a brave face and was ready for what would have been the biggest change in my life (we ended up not moving). Then earlier this year, my dad was in and out of the hospital because of his kidneys. It was a scary time because I didn’t know what was happening to him, my mother was a bit of a mess, my family was asking questions that I couldn’t answer and to top it off it was ministry exam season. However, this experience allowed me to manage both my stress and fear so that I could focus on what was most important, my exams, as well as staying strong in front of my family. None of what I just told you is as terrifying as when my parents went to Turks and Caicos (like I mentioned earlier) because when they went, they got caught in Hurricane Irma and I had no idea if they were okay. I was home alone going to school and not knowing what was happening to my parents because they lost power. And let me tell you it’s not fun to wonder the worst and not know if it’s true or not. All of these experiences allowed me to build up my emotional strength in a way that makes it harder for someone to hurt me. And for that I am super grateful.

In conclusion, my father had taught me some of the most important life lessons I’ve ever learned because a person who lacks independence, strength and self-confidence isn’t living their best life. This is why my father is my hero.

Chateauguay Hope Bank by Erika Lanthier

It’s easy to find a local organization and write about it; however, it is hard to find one that has personal value. The Chateauguay Food Bank is an amazing non-profit organization that uses compassion to give hope to those struggling, to bring a town together and to inspire the individuals within it.

A valuable organization is one that gives hope to the people that need it. This is where the Chateauguay Food Bank’s importance lies. Families want nothing more than for each other to be healthy and well nourished. Sadly, even in highly developed countries like Canada, this isn’t always possible. Evidently, food is expensive. My own mother, some weeks, can hardly afford the $250 it takes to feed her family of four. For some people, though, that $250 is taken from their bill payments, which can result in the loss of a home. A close friend of mine in elementary school was almost faced with that exact, terrifying reality. The Chateauguay Food Bank was the lifeline they needed to focus their bill payments and restore their hope by knowing that there is someone that cares, even when they were at their lowest point. Now, they are doing better than ever, and that may not have been the case if it weren’t for this organization.

On top of giving hope to families in need, the annual food drive hosted by the Chateauguay Food Bank inspires the whole community. Every year, hundreds of citizens, including myself, volunteer to collect food for the depots by visiting the homes of Chateauguay residents and asking for a donation of cash or non-perishable food items. At the end of the day, this act of volunteerism gives me and many others a sense of pride and self-worth. In addition, the food drive gives the chance to everyone in the town to donate which, more often than not, can make someone’s day and bring the town closer together. Nothing is more beautiful than a day where a whole town is beaming because they’ve done well.

Within the community, the Chateauguay Food Bank can and does inspire individuals to go above and beyond. I was inspired after my third year volunteering to prepare lunches to distribute to the homeless or the hungry in Montreal. It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Chateauguay Food Bank that helped me realize how fortunate I am, and filled me with the drive to do better for those who have it harder. On that day, I, along with six of my friends, provided full meals including juice, water, sandwiches, fresh fruits and energy bars to thirty people. I will never forget the look on their faces when we asked which sandwich they wanted. I will never forget the genuine gratitude expressed. More than that, though, I will always carry with me the feeling that I’ve fulfilled my purpose in life, a concept I had been struggling with my entire life.

In conclusion, the Chateauguay Food Bank serves its community through compassion. It is a group of nameless, yet wonderful people that gives hope to those in need, brings a town together and inspires the individuals within it in a single day. The best way to help yourself, I firmly believe, is to help others. No amount of therapy will ever amount to the impact giving has on my clinical depression, and that is a fact. Without the Chateauguay Food Bank I may have never discovered the best side of me. There is no replacement for making a stranger’s day for the sole purpose of making someone’s life a little less hard; why not give it a chance?

A Dancing Heart by Justine Poulin

EWC Essayist Justine PoulinIt’s hard to choose just one single person that expressed compassion and which impacted my life tremendously. Though I did go through multiple stages and obstacles in my life, there is indeed one person who helped in a way no one else could: my grand-ma. Through the constant presence of my grand-ma, both physically and consciously, I’ve been able to accomplish things that I could only dream about within my dance career. Even through her own rough past, she strives to live her love and passion for dance through me.

My grand-mother was not one to complain when she was younger, especially when it came to her family’s economical situations. Just like me, my grand-ma, “Mamou” I like to call her, had a true passion for dance, all types of dances as a matter of fact. Despite having a loving and supportive family, her parents could not afford dance classes and traveling the long distances to get to the nearest studio about 35 minutes away. Living in the far mountainous villages, they did not have much at their disposal. She dreamed of performing on big stages and competing in competitions but never got the chance to taste all that freedom and happiness. But this in no way stopped her from being my ultimate #1 fan. Ever since I heard about what it was like when she was younger, I grew a larger appreciation for what I get to do for 8 hours a week. What surprised me most was that my mom was the one who told me all of this, not my grand-ma.

Although the distance between us in the past and present was long, Mamou still made it her plan to come and see me at my recitals. My first ever recital took place when I was 4 years old, and I was very nervous and exited, but then again I was only 4. What made it even better is when I saw my own grand-ma who surprised me in the crowd right in the middle of my performance, sitting beside my parents waving at me with a huge smile, in which I responded with an even bigger smile. With nothing in return, she came all this way just to see me on stage for a two-minute performance. But that was just the beginning as she came to my recitals every second year since that day. At each one of my recitals she comes to see me beforehand and gives me either a piece of advice or a saying through her calm voice and comforting smile that relates to dance and life as a whole. One in particular hit me more so than others.... “Dancing with your feet is one thing, but dancing with your heart is another.” I feel like this perfectly sums up how both me and my grand-ma feel about the art of dance and the feeling that comes out of it, whether it’s while performing on stage or just while dancing alone in the middle of the living room.

While always checking up on me before I get to check up on her myself, Mamou always asks me questions and is always ready to listen to anything and everything I have in mind. Like what happened not too long ago when I felt in somewhat of a monotone mood involving my future and what I was really capable of doing with my dancing skills. This eventually led me to the thought of possibly competing one day in a competitive troupe, which might sound pretty simple for some but it was definitely something I wanted to do in order to improve myself even more. But this opportunity came with a certain cost and level of self-confidence in order to audition, in which I never felt ready for. It took me three years to slowly develop this. Mamou was the one who helped me take this big leap. This very leap turned out to be my biggest yet. She approached me one day while I was visiting her and said in French: “You know, Justine, dance is something you get to enjoy no matter what the circumstances are. But you know what...practice like you’ve never won and perform like you’ve never lost…that’s what it’s all about and that’s how you should face this next big leap.” A couple weeks later, I auditioned for the first time, and got the results the next day telling me I officially got in. I couldn’t wait to start.

Mamou is not only a “Dance Grand-ma” or simply just my grand-ma, she’s my coach and maybe even my spirit guide in a way. Although she’s been through a lot, she puts that all aside in order to make sure I get to do the things she personally didn’t get the chance to experience at my age. Also, ever since I can remember, every time I go on stage and perform either at school or somewhere else, I always think about her and take her with me on my journey. She has even come twice this year to see me perform, more than ever before. There is no better feeling then having her physically present and sharing our dancing hearts together.

An Angel from Above by Victoria Walker

Photo of EWC Essayist Victoria WalkerUnfortunately, a genuinely compassionate person is very hard to come by. Although they are difficult to find, they are by no means extinct. When I was in elementary school, my parents led very busy lives trying to provide for their three children. Some days, my parents were late picking me up from school, and other days I had to walk home in the coldest days of the year. Eventually, my parents placed me in the after school daycare program at my school. Although I hated the idea of it at first, everything changed when I was immediately greeted by Ms. Rose. Thanks to her, my parents never had to worry about picking me up from school at 3 o’clock and they never had to worry about whether or not I was in good hands. Ms. Rose treated each child as one of her own, she taught us several life lessons and she always made school feel like a second home.

Ms. Rose saw the good in every one of us brats which is probably why she loved us more than anyone else in the school ever could. She never treated us differently than one another because we were all the same to her: we were all her kids. Ms. Rose always noticed when we were looking a little hungry or when our lunch boxes didn’t have enough snacks and she always came prepared for us. She always offered us apple sauces and juice boxes and when she had nothing left to give she was nice enough to ask other kids if they had a spare snack, especially when we were too embarrassed to do so for ourselves. Ms. Rose offered a state of the art daycare room, which she treated as a kingdom full of princes and princesses. She continuously added new toys for us to play with and arts and crafts for us to do while the pool table was being used. The endless activities really made up for Wednesday homework program. The homework program was every child’s least favourite part, yet we always managed to get our homework done, especially with Ms. Rose’s help.

Like every good parent, Ms. Rose taught us how to be better people. She showed us endless compassion which we were able to learn from. Through the homework program, she taught us how to balance school work and our home life, and although that was a lesson, I never quite caught onto, but she still promoted it nonetheless. She never failed at showing us respect, which led to the majority of us treating her with the same kindness, which eventually just became part of who we were. Soon enough, everyone treated everyone with respect and school was that much easier. Despite some of us slipping up and losing our cool with others, she rarely got mad at us because she was a friend, and she understood that sometimes people aren’t themselves. Lastly, Ms. Rose taught us all manners. She taught us how to share the Lego. She taught us how to sit at the snack table and even how to chew properly. She taught us how to stay on top of our work and how to catch up when we began to fall behind. Back then, we were too little and we didn’t quite understand why she was wasting her breath teaching us such silly lessons, but we understand them now. We understand that those silly lessons she taught us are what turned every single one of us into the bright and respectful teenagers that we are today. By teaching us all to be better people, she made school a better environment.

With every passing day school felt more and more like a second home. At home, the very first smile I see is my mother’s when she wakes me up every morning. Ms. Rose’s smile was very similar when she greeted both my parents and I in the morning. When we were having bad days she gave us the warmest hugs, the type of hug that you could feel in your heart, and somehow she always knew when we were having bad days. Lastly, she always made us feel important. One year, I bought her a Montreal Canadiens lanyard and she wore it every day, even when it got old and grungy. Our artwork was always plastered on the walls around the daycare, and everyone knows elementary students are not Picassos. It warms my heart knowing how much she cared about us.

I cannot express how thankful I am that I met such a compassionate person when I was so young because she instantly became a large part of my childhood and everything she taught me remained in my head even up to this day. She made each and every one of us feel like part of her family, she taught me unforgettable values, and she truly did the impossible by making school feel like home. Although she left us too soon, and she didn’t get to see us grow up, I know she watches over us and I knew she would be proud of every single one of us Centennial Park daycare alumni.

In Loving Memory of Ms. Rose

My Parents…Helping Me Help Others by Annie Gouchee

Photo of EWC Essay Winner Annie GoucheeThrough their compassion and leadership, my parents are my inspiration. Not a very unique response, one’s parents are most likely the most common inspiration talked about, next to Ghandi. However, my parents are different. Although they wanted the best for me, they never forced me to do my homework or eat my vegetables. If I was unhappy, their common answer to all my frustrations was, “it’s just life and life isn’t perfect.” That sounds like good advice, however, when you are five and crying because your friend was mean to you, you tend to want your parents to do something for you in order to end the fight, not just give you words of wisdom. When I was younger I never realized how much they sacrificed for me. Now, at fifteen years old, I finally understand the trouble they have gone through and I hope in my future years, I can repay them for everything they have done. Furthermore, I would like to describe how they impacted the life of others through generosity and kindness, and similarly how my parents have impacted our community.

Firstly, to gain a better understanding on how much they have done for me and others, it is necessary to know our family history. My parents did not enjoy the privileged life I do now. My mother was born into a wealthy family. However, growing up in a communist country meant that living in a wealthy family was not very rewarding. Her family’s money was seized by the state to be redistributed to the less fortunate, leaving them with close to nothing. She would tell me stories when I was younger about how her birthday present was a hard-boiled egg and I couldn’t believe my ears. My father, on the other hand, was born into an extremely poor family. Unlike my mother, he grew up on a farm with his many brothers and sisters. I visited his hometown when I was 8 and couldn’t fathom upon the fact that someone had lived in his childhood house, which did not even have a roof. Later did I learn that the house I saw was, in fact, a rebuilt, better version of what he lived in as a child.

Both my parents met in university. Even though they had a small amount of money, they travelled the world together living off what they had and making more along the way. I was born in the United States on November 19, 2001. By that time, my mother had completed her PHD and became an engineer. Unfortunately, she lost her job due to the bankruptcy of the company she worked for. Ten months after I was born, my immediate family moved to Quebec and we have not moved since. My parents started a business, putting their house on the line, which became successful and were able to give me the life I currently have today. Their sacrifices made by leaving their friends and family at home to gain a better life, their persistence, and their determination have inspired me to work hard and help others. It is because of them that I want to become a doctor in the future so I can help others, as well as repay them.

Secondly, my parents often advocate the importance of helping others that are less fortunate than us. They understand the struggle, since they too came from a less privileged family, and make it a point that I know the hardship that comes with earning every penny. Having a busy schedule makes it difficult to volunteer for many big events. However, my parents often try to help others in small ways. They always say a small act can help change someone’s day in a big way. They help their community through donations, small acts of kindness, etc. Even if they do not always have enough money for themselves, they think that there is always someone worse off. When I was a child, I never understood why they would want to pay for the person’s meal behind us in the drive thru. Now, I understand that doing a small act like that can make someone else’s day. When people are happy, they radiate positive energy, which can consequently make others happy, too. However, when someone is sad and radiates negative energy, it affects the energy of other people, as well. It is a chain reaction. Through small actions, bigger consequences may emerge. My parents have inspired me to help others. Soon, I will be going to Peru to help build a school for others who are less fortunate than I am right now. My parents are my motivation in embarking on this challenge. During their hardships, they have met others who have helped them along the way of their journey and I would like to be someone who helps someone else in the midst of their journey, as well. My parents have done so much for me and I want to repay them. However, they always say that they are already fortunate enough to have a loving family and roof over their head and that I should help others who need more help than them.

Finally, as previously stated, I would like to become a doctor in order to help others, similar to how my parents have helped me. When I was younger, my parents allowed me to choose my school. I had no concept of money and I subsequently chose a school that my parents did not have the means to afford. However, they did not want to disappoint me and allowed me to attend this school. Fortunately, at that time their business began becoming increasingly more successful and they were able to send me to a school where I could achieve a better education. I appreciate how they spend so much every year in order for me to gain a higher education. I would like to further use this education they have provided for me, in the future in order to get into a good university and become a doctor. The reason why I chose to become a doctor is because I want to help others. Initially, when I was a child, I wanted to be a doctor because that is what everyone wanted to be. I had no real reason for choosing such a profession. Now, my passion for medicine and interest in the human body has drawn me to becoming a doctor. Furthermore, I feel that becoming a doctor will allow me to help others, as well as pay my parents back for everything they have done for me. At the moment, I must finish my education in order to become a doctor and help others, which will take a few years. However, I am now doing other things in order to help others. Community service is a significant part of my life. I often volunteer for different events in order to pass on the kindness my parents have shared with me.

In conclusion, my parents are my inspiration due to their determination in obtaining a better life, and in my opinion, are a good influence on me. They have taught me many life lessons, which include the importance of helping those less privileged than me. When I become much older, I wish to become as successful as my parents are today. Although saying my parents are my inspiration is not the most original response, their story of starting from close to nothing to becoming successful entrepreneurs is not comparable to others. Everyone has their own reasons for idolizing another person and I have shared my reasons. The love and care my parents provide for me have shaped me to become the person I am today, a student and, hopefully, a future doctor.

Mary Gao and Kevin Qi (my parents)

My Passion for Sports and Fitness by Melissa Landry

A path towards personal discovery

Drive: an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need. I believe that every action and every momentary decision should be a step towards where you want to be in life. We are given one life: one life to live in a world of infinite possibility. Our lives are unpredictable and we only have a limited supply of time. What you choose to do with that time will ultimately define who you are as a person and will shape you into the person you are destined to be.

Everyone has a passion but not everybody believes they have found their own. Regardless, everyone has a “thing”. This “thing” can be anything that makes them feel alive and exuberant and on top of the world. My thing is sports. Swimming, badminton, soccer, gymnastics... you name it, I’ve tried it. From the first time I have set foot on the fresh green grass in my backyard to the present, sports and fitness have defined my life.

I have many fond memories of kicking a ball with my brothers or playing catch in the backyard as a child. Those memories are very precious to me and they are kept close to my heart because they have fostered my love for sports. My life has been a series of unfortunate events. I have experienced many situations I would have thought as unthinkable as a child. People, places and things I have loved have been given and taken from me throughout my life, but sports have always been there for me. Through it all, I would turn to the soccer field or the pool to turn my sadness and frustration into energy. The hardest times in my life have also been the times I have trained to my utmost capabilities and saw the most improvement in my athletics. Everyone needs an outlet and sports have allowed me to cope with the difficulties I have faced.

Sports are generally seen by many people as a “pass time” or hobby or something to do for fitness and fun. To me, sports can be all of those but the worth and benefit one can obtain from sports is much more vast than fitness itself. Sports develop character and can teach you many things you didn’t know about yourself. Sports require dedication, perseverance, bravery, but most importantly, an inner drive in order to deal with failure. “You can do anything you put your mind” to is a phrase not many believe. Failure has scared too many people on this planet from achieving their hopes and dreams and I want no part in this madness. Failure is fuel. Failure contributes to personal drive and without failure, you cannot truly win. Finding your drive and your breaking point is what sports are all about. What you learn from overcoming adversary and injury in sports in order to accomplish your goals can be applied to all aspects of life.

There have been many people in my life who have contributed to my love and passion for physical fitness and health. A prominent person in my own community has been a large motivator for me. This particular person has been a lifelong fan of physical fitness himself and his passion and energy for sports is contagious. He demonstrates both leadership and compassion and has many characteristics I wish to develop. In the area of sports, he has trained Olympic ski athletes in the past and has a great skiing history himself. He has also volunteered at my school to help provide an enriched physical education course. This guy has a drive nobody I know can compete with. This man has greatly impacted the little community I reside in and I am so very thankful I have such a person to talk to who shares my passion. I have also met tons of individuals who have shared a similar passion for sports and fitness on my teams and in competitions. Being able to go to the sports and fitness week at Encounters with Canada would be a privilege as it would allow me to connect with more people my age who also have a love for sports.

I have chosen to dedicate the majority of my time on earth to anything sports and fitness related. This decision has positively impacted my confidence and has helped to further my understanding of who I am meant to be. I and almost every child who has lived on this earth have been asked: “What do you want to do when you grow up?”. I still haven’t quite come up with an answer, but I do know what I want to be: happy. I am still trying figure myself out but I try to dive into anything that I can reap benefit and personal growth from. In order to be the best and happiest I can be I have made a personal choice to do things because I want to. I do things I love and hopefully, someday I will find something I love so much I will want to do it for the rest of my life. The sports and fitness week at Encounters with Canada would provide for me an opportunity to dive deeper into myself and become more aware of who I am. I will also be able to further develop my drive and passion for physical activity. This is my question for you or anybody reading this: would you rather look back on your life regretting the things you have done or regretting the chances you didn’t take? So far, I do not have the slightest clue of who I am destined to be or what I am destined to do, but I do look forward to taking steps towards personal discovery and hearing from all of you at Learn Quebec. Thank you for your time and consideration.

My Brother Patrick by Anna Guest

Photo of winning EWC essayist Anna GuestGrowing up as the youngest in a family of five, I’ve always had people to look up to. In particular, my two older brothers have always been there to support me and guide me, whether it’s in academics, athletics or the arts. James, the older of the two, is an elite athlete who’s been on several national teams, has won many awards and has recently earned the title as an All American at the University of Georgia, which means he has excelled in both his sport, swimming, and academics. Patrick, the younger of the two, is currently studying science at John-Abbott College and he will be the main topic of my essay.  

For as long as I can remember, Patrick has had a passion for science. It started around the age of 6 when you could ask him a question about almost any animal and he could answer it as if he’d read it out of a book. My parents then realized how extraordinary his memory is, as he could also read out the answers to a quiz booklet that we had for long car rides word-for-word. At the age of 8, Patrick saw a commercial for a zoo camp in Ontario and begged to go. This lead to 3 years at the Safari zoo camp which allowed kids to participate in caring for lions, tigers, wolves, otters, and many other animals in a very hands-on way.  At the age of 12, he moved on from the animal world to a slightly harder science: physics. “Since I was 12, I’ve known that I wanted to be a physicist”. In the 10th grade, he was told by his science teacher that he could probably not do any work but still get perfect grades. After graduating from St. Thomas High School with honors and winning the “Math SN” award, he then moved on to CEGEP, where he earned one of the top averages in the school. Patrick is currently finishing up English and Humanities courses which he did not complete in his two year program due to medical circumstances. Even though he is not currently taking science classes, he is teaching himself Tensor calculus and the Theory of Relativity with the help of a physics teacher at John-Abbott. He also keeps himself busy with tutoring people in physics, calculus, linear algebra and chemistry. One of his students started with a 17% on a calculus quiz and ended the year with a 80% average. He’s had great success with his tutoring business and says he enjoys it. With the money he makes on tutoring, he spends it on physics textbooks. He says, “I’ll read my English homework earlier and then I’ll read my textbooks. It helps me relax.” Patrick shares his interest in science with me in many ways such as explaining to me in simple terms what he’s teaching himself, as well as encouraging me to teach myself to read more about the topics that fascinate me. He’s made me realize that I have very similar interests and has inspired me to pursue them with as much excitement as he does. Patrick has also shown me how dedicated a person can be about a subject, but also know how to balance out life with other activities, such as exercise.

At a very young age, both Patrick and James started swimming at Pointe-Claire Swim Club, an aquatic center that has one of the top rankings in Canada in terms of swimming. As my brothers are very competitive, racing was a great form of exercise for them. It requires a lot of strength to be a swimmer.  They both excelled in the sport and went to national level competitions, winning many medals. At the age of 16, Patrick decided that swimming was no longer the right fit for him, so he made the choice to quit. Replacing swimming is not an easy task, for it is a sport that requires a lot of commitment, at least 15 hours of training a week at the top levels. He went through a couple of years where he wasn’t doing much exercise and just focusing on school. My mom tried to help him get back to an activity, but nothing seemed to attract his interest. It wasn’t until this year that he found a perfect match for himself. With the help of friends, he found a bouldering gym named Beta Bloc that had recently opened up. Bouldering is rock climbing except the walls are shorter and there are no ropes. He very soon got into the sport and, for his 19th birthday, he asked for a 6 month membership to Beta Bloc. He now goes almost every day for at least two hours and he claims that he’s in the best shape of his life. I’ve gotten the opportunity to go with him every once in awhile and I hope to continue because not only is it a great workout, but it has a great social aspect where everyone helps each other with different levels and techniques. The fact that Patrick went from being an elite athlete to doing nothing, and then being able to say that he’s in the best shape of his life is very inspirational to me because I went through a similar stage where I too had quit swimming and couldn’t find anything to replace it. He’s helping me get back in shape by taking me to Beta Bloc and helping me become stronger and healthier overall.

At the age of five, Patrick started taking piano lessons with a couple of friends as well as James. It was recognized almost instantly that Patrick had a natural ear for music. He wouldn’t look at the sheet music, but just play based on sound, which was a slight problem because he never learned how to read the music until when he got older. After a couple of years of piano lessons, sports took over and he stopped the lessons. When I was eight years old, I wanted to buy a guitar with my own money. My mom had said that as long as I use it, I could buy it. Of course, as I come from a competitive family, Patrick decided that he wasn’t going to let his younger sister be better at him in something, so he picked up the guitar himself. While I was taking lessons from one of Patrick’s friends, Patrick was teaching himself, mostly by using YouTube tutorials. He slowly got better and better, to the point that he can play songs just by listening to them. He’s also learned many songs with difficult chords and picking up rhythms and can play them perfectly. In his high school years, he had to do a ‘personal project’ for his IB program and he chose to make an electric guitar from scratch. Now that Patrick is out of high school, he still carries on by playing guitar and teaching himself new songs all the time. Over the past couple of years, he has helped me keep my interest in guitar and inspired me to keep learning new skills. Patrick and I have also always had very similar taste in music, and introduced me to some of my favorite artists.

Even though my brother possesses many natural talents in academics, athletics and music, he still works hard to develop and to enhance those abilities to get the results he deserves. What inspires me most about Patrick is watching him put in the work and gaining more satisfaction through his hard work. I aspire to have the passion that he has developed and to use it in what I’m most passionate in. Patrick is what has inspired me to write this essay and join Encounters with Canada.

Malala Yousafzai by Misha Fotovati

Photo of EWC Essay Winner Misha Fotovati“A shot heard around the world.” A firing of a bullet rocked many nations alike, but rather than referring to a Revolutionary War, this depicted an important message sent to the global community. On October 9th, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot 15-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai on her way to school in Swat Valley, Pakistan. Her misdeed? The yearning for an education for herself and for her female peers. Many in her conservative community thought that this intimidation would tame her influence, and convince her to conform to the restrictions set for young women like herself. Yet, she stood stronger than ever, captivating the world’s attention to the extent of the problems young women and girls were facing just to receive the fundamental Right to an Education.

Malala had always been questioning the status quo since she was young, advocating the right for woman and young girls to receive an education. In her little village in rural Pakistan, Malala’s father ran an underground school, educating females despite the Taliban’s control of their lives. Despite the widespread fear of this militia group, she decided to publicly campaign for young girls to go to school. She was considered ‘only’ a child, yet was able to muster up more change for her community than many who are years her senior. Malala is an inspirational figure to me as a young woman, and a pioneer for social advocacy.

Malala’s strong passion for what she believes in has been transformed into real change. She has tackled a plethora of social justice issues from the feminist movement to the Syrian refugee crisis, giving her unique perspective to world leaders to find a solution. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize, making her one of the youngest to win such an honour. However, it is not these outstanding accomplishments that make her the inspiration which guides my hope to one day impact the lives we live. Rather, it is her courage to stand up against the injustices that plague our world, regardless of the stereotypes which restrict those who are female, or her age.

One day, I hope to become a pioneer for social changes myself, to leave a tremendous effect in the field which I have chosen to pursue, medicine, and even become a social advocate in the ambivalent world of politics. Although I have been discouraged many times before by the pressures of society, Malala has proven that you can break the limits and expectations that others have set for you; that is truly inspirational.

White Rose by Tobias Meyer

Resistance Fighters Against the Nazi Regime

Photo of EWC essay winner Tobias Meyer“Such a splendid day, and I shall go. But what about our lives when we manage to stir up and wake up thousands of people ?”1 Those were the words of Sophie Scholl, a leader of the White Rose Movement on the day of her execution, February 22, 1943. I dedicate my essay to her and the other members of the White Rose because they inspire me to act with moral courage.

When I was in Grade 5 in Germany, I learned for the first time about the Second World War, the Nazi regime, and the Holocaust. After the first lesson I was shocked, speechless and angry because how could I be proud to be a German when the generation of my grand-grandparents was responsible for this genocide. Unspeakable many people were killed “at least 55 million people”2  in the war and approximately another 6 million people in the biggest genocide the earth has ever seen.3   So much suffering was caused by the Nazi regime who controlled the unwilling German folk, the soldiers who marched full of pride into the war,4 the SS (a Protection Squadron)5  who monitored the deportation and execution of the Jewish folk in the KZ`s, and the last, the cruel, inhuman and disgusting KZ.6

After some history lessons about the war we started the chapter “Resistance against the Nazi regime.” It was very important for me to learn that not every German was a mute and cowardly follower of National Socialism. There were some people who did not accept the Nazi regime but just a few of them had the courage to voice their support against the regime in public. The members of the White Rose were a part of them. I was fascinated and impressed because they had the courage to stand up against a brutal regime that punished any criticism or other opinions with death.

“The six main players of the resistance group were the students from the University of Munich: Hans (24)7 and Sophie Scholl (21)8, Alexander Schmorell (25)9, Christoph Probst (23)10, Willi Graf (25)11 and the professor Kurt Huber (49)12.”13

The group had created a total of six anti-nationalism leaflets, in which they sharply criticized the National Socialists but the Germans looked away from the crime. The first four leaflets were written by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell in June and July, 1942.15 The main aim of their action was to clarify and persuade the German folk that the National Socialists were cruel and the war useless and a shame for Germany.

“Every word that comes from Hitler’s mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan.” A quote from the fourth leaflet line.30-33.14

“Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practice an effective opposition. They do not see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system.”14 Written in the third leaflet.

They also condemned the genocide to the Jews in their second leaflet: “We want to cite the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity.”14

Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell were sent to the Russian front as paramedicsat the end of July 1942. As they returned to Munich in November 1942, they were even more passionate to offer resistance against the regime and the war. After the German defeat in Stalingrad at January 1943, Alexander and Hans wrote the fifth and sixth leaflets with the help of their art history professor Karl Huber, Sophie Scholl and Willi Graf.

The fifth and sixth leaflets dealt with the useless war and they tried to convince all Germans that the war had already been lost. “Hitler cannot win the war; he can only prolong it.”14  Written in the fifth leaflet.

They produced a total of 6,000 to 9,000 copies of the fifth leaflet at night and distributed them in different German cities to reach the great German population and start a big anti-Hitler movement. But the hoped-for reaction in the population, however, did not happen.

The sixth leaflet becomes the fate of the White Rose. In the early morning on the 18th of February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were walking to the Munich University with a total of 1,800 copies in their bags. They distributed the leaflets into the building but they were watched by the caretaker who denounced them to the Gestapo.17 Four days later on the 22nd of February, Sophie and Hans Scholl were sentenced to death.

An important thing I have learned from the White Rose is that freedom, whether it is political freedom to vote, freedom of religion or freedom of speech, is not self-evident and that there must always be people who feel responsible for our freedom.

The actions of the White Rose have inspired me to act with moral courage. Even in everyday situations you should act with moral courage and not to look away when you see, for example, a student is bullied.

The members of the White Rose tried peacefully to start a resistance against National Socialism; even if they didn’t succeed, they are still role models for freedom and moral courage.


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13 Alfred Grosser et al., Des Allemands contre le nazism. Albin Michel. 30/10/1997. Print

14 Paul Jakob, The six pamphlets of the White Rose. 20.02.2015. Web

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