Maddy Morrison is a poet, and now she does know it.
The 14-year-old Royal Bay student is one of 10 people selected for a national art and essay competition that asked students to talk about the future of Canada through the lens of reconciliation, specifically following the work of the aboriginal Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Her winning poem Imagine a Canada, has earned her a ticket to Ottawa, where the winning entries will be celebrated and displayed at Rideau Hall on March 1.
“I had no intention in the world of getting into (the competition), I just thought I would try. So I was really shocked when I (was selected), but it was a good shock. I was freaking out … I started screaming to my sister,” she said.
Morrison also called her mom in Quebec with the exciting news. “They just started freaking out (and) she was crying.”
Her poem was inspired by aboriginal culture and the challenges many faced in residential schools.
It references words and statistics she found in researching those affected, and those who died.
“(Those events) really inspired me. But the poem is not about dwelling on the past, it’s about looking to the future, and so I think the key words were growth, respect and (hope),” she said.
“Those were words that stood out to me and the first that came to my head, so I based each of the verses on one of those things.”
The poem starts with the title: “Imagine a Canada of growth: A racist joke not uttered. A tree sprouting with acceptance, Leaf by leaf, branch by branch. A clean slate, Everyone an equal.”
Morrison is in esteemed company: the contest accepts submissions from youth from grades 1 through 12 and those working on undergraduate degrees, and only two students in her age category made the cut.
Her teacher, Marc Burgess, presented the opportunity to enter the competition to some of his students and said he knew Morrison would be a good fit.
“She was my top student and as any teacher, you like to challenge your top students. So I saw this contest and I thought of her,” he said.
“She’s not lucky, she is talented. She has the mental prowess and the willingness to learn and the drive to do her best, and it’s rare to see that in one student … It makes for a stellar student.”
Morrison has not had the opportunity to travel much, so she is looking forward to going to Ottawa for the first time.
“I think that because I didn’t expect it, it made it all the more special,” she said.
“I am really excited about this. I think it’s a great opportunity.”
For more information on the contest, visit nctr.ca/education_imagine.php