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L.A. Matheson Secondary student Jasmeen Kaur Dhaliwal is grateful for the opportunity to learn more about her culture and mother tongue, and submit a story to the 2019 Dhahan Prize youth Punjabi writing contest.
The Dhahan Prize for youth creative writing has once again launched, inviting students from Surrey and across the province to share their Punjabi stories, win cash prizes and have their work published.
At an event held at L.A. Matheson Secondary, teacher Gurpreet Bains said students have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to submit their creative writing.
The contest is open to all B.C. students who are taking Punjabi language classes in Grade 11 or 12. Their stories, between 800 and 1,000 words, must be submitted in both Punjabi and English. As in past years, the eight winners not only receive $500, but have their work included in a printed anthology.
"We have kids who are published authors. Happiness is when your students' work is published," Bains (at right) said, noting she uses the anthologies, titled Lofty Heights, as teaching resources in her classroom.
Grade 11 student Jasmeen Kaur Dhaliwal is excited about the opportunity to submit her writing, but also grateful that her Punjabi class at school taught her more about Canadian-Punjabi history and literature.
"I think we are very lucky that we got a chance to learn about our mother tongue," she said.
Dhahan Prize founder Barj Dhahan noted the contest is not restricted to students with Punjabi backgrounds – many participants have been from non-Punjabi backgrounds who are taking Punjabi at school.
"It's not only about inspiring those of you who come from Punjabi families to learn to write and express yourselves in your mother tongue," said Dhahan, "but also in English and maybe by extension, other languages as well."
Principal Peter Johnston lauded the contest for allowing South Asian students to share their experience and understanding within the South Asian and with the community at large.
"That is powerful. That's powerful for our community here at L.A. Matheson, it's powerful for the South Asian community abroad."
The youth Punjabi writing contest was established in 2017 as a way to help recognize the richness of Punjabi history and encourage youth to connect to and share their culture through storytelling.
Teacher Annie Ohana said it's key that students feel empowered, as they are through the writing contest.
"We are living in a world where I know of students in the United States that are fighting tooth and nail to see themselves in their curriculum, where doors are shut in their face, where departments of education deny them access to their mother tongues, deny them access to their cultures."
She said only good comes from empowering one another.
"It makes us stronger as a society; it makes us better as a society."
The deadline to submit work is May 31.
For more information about the eligibility requirements and an application form, visit http://dhahanprize.com/events/youth