Community Papers

Student poems ‘light up’ luncheon

From right, Melanie Grant, Selina Shivji, Puneet Tatla, Ariel Zhang and Don Larson. - Contributed photo
From right, Melanie Grant, Selina Shivji, Puneet Tatla, Ariel Zhang and Don Larson.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Two Semiahmoo Secondary students wowed the crowd at the annual African Canadian Continuing Education Society appreciation luncheon with the strength of their words.

Grade 11 student Ariel Zhang and Grade 10 student Selina Shivji “lit up the room” when they performed poems they had written at the May 14 luncheon, according to a news release from ACCES, which was founded by White Rock residents George and Beth Scott in 1993 in order to provide support to Kenyan communities.

The two women were named winner and runner-up, respectively, in an annual poetry competition, organized by ACCES board member and retired educator Don Larson, with help from Semiahmoo Secondary’s English teacher Melanie Grant.

The competition aims to “involve and inspire students in the White Rock/South Surrey community to write and reflect on the power of education.”

Puneet Tatla and Peter Woo, who also competed, received honourable mentions.

All competitors researched education in Kenya and transformed what they learned into spoke word poems.

“Before this contest, I never really thought about how education can save lives and help people take command of their future. Through research, I discovered that education for people in developing countries is the gate to a future that isn’t composed of living in a shack or going hungry every night,” Zhang said in the release. “I will never complain about school again – or try my hardest, at least.”

The event also featured a presentation from Kenyan lawyer, Carlestous Shifwoka, who received support from ACCES to achieve his goals. Shifwoka is currently a member of the ACCES-Kenya advisory council, owns his own law firm in Kakamega and is personally sponsoring students through ACCES.


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