Remembrance Day Poetry Contest

CHHS student takes home second place at provincials for the Canadian Legions Youth Remembrance Contest

· Medicine Hat News

· 15 Jun 2021

· LAUREN THOMSON Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nolan Trapp, a Grade 10 student at Crescent Heights High School, placed second at a provincial level in the Canadian Legions Youth Remembrance Contest.

This is the second year Trapp has submitted to the contest. He won at the local level last year with a poem.

This year his essay made it through local judging, into districts and then placed second in the senior level essay competition at the provincial level.

Sheila Donner, president of the local Medicine Hat Robertson Memorial Branch of the Canadian Legion, says all schools in Medicine Hat can submit artwork between September and November each year.

“It all relates to Remembrance Day,” said Donner. “We find that it’s really helpful to do it with the children, and the artwork and the essays and the poems that have been submitted have been really, really good.”

Heather McCaig, who teaches the leadership class at CHHS, has helped her students submit work to the contest for the last 10 years. She said she brings a veteran in to speak with her class each year.

“When they come in, it certainly opens your eyes about what happens in war,” said McCaig. “Where it happens, how it happens, how it looks at the civilian population.”

Mike Spellen is a local veteran who served in Yugoslavia in 1993.

“It gives them a lot more understanding, it helps them be more aware about the military,” said Spellen. “It makes them aware of the conflicts that are going on around the world and how lucky they are to live in this country.”

Trapp, who said he has always had interest in military, found the experience of listening to a veteran to be quite educational.

“Wikipedia just gives you the facts, but it doesn’t really tell you what it was like,” Trapp explained. “It’s the difference in experience to just third-, fourth-, fifth-hand information … It was sad but it was really interesting, too.”

Both McCaig and Donner want to keep the connection strong between veterans and young students.

“We have veterans who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s and they love it, they love going into schools and sharing their stories,”

Donner said. “I think it’s really important because we’re losing so many of our Second World War veterans …We like to honour the past and we like to keep in touch with the present veterans as well.”

By bringing Spellen into her class, McCaig is helping her students understand more about modern day war.

“The kids really learned about what ethnic cleansing is and it’s a problem that continues to happen around the world today in different situations,” said McCaig. “Canada has had its own genocide with the residential schools. It helps them tie all of those things together.”

Trapp has been in McCaig’s leadership class for several years and “you can see the depth develop in the understanding of what war means … as he’s looking at and thinking about what goes on there,” said McCaig. “I think that’s important because as they become young adults they learn more about what potential is there and hopefully they can, in their daily lives, put a stop to hate and racism and things like that that we see are so prevalent in wars now.”

Part of Trapp’s essay reads: “Human life is precious and valuable, and the fact that it is so fragile is worrying for humanity. It’s like throwing two glass cups against each other. One may come out with bigger fragments, but in the end, neither of them will be quite the same again, despite our best efforts … Humans’ hope for the future rests upon our ability to learn from the past, something no other race is capable of.”