By: Ben Hartshorn
“Throughout our lives, my family and I have lived in predominantly white areas with almost no brown kids. It was difficult for my brother to make friends at a young age because of his skin colour and that he wore his hair in a turban. Several events in my story are roughly based on his experiences, and show what he went through as a young child.” (Saihaj Rehsi)
In the first week of October, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario awarded three talented students with the Speaker’s Award for Youth Writers. To enter, students from grades 7-12 across the province submitted short stories and personal essays last spring in hopes of gaining recognition for their outstanding works, and MD is proud to say that one of our very own WON!
Congratulations to Saihaj Rehsi for receiving the Youth Speaker’s Award in the category of Grade 11/12!
Saihaj graduated from MDHS last June. When COVID-19 cut the term short in March, she kept up with her EWC Writer’s Craft class. She learned about the contest when it was shared with the class by Ms Gleeson. Saihaj didn’t write this story as an assignment; she wrote it because she wanted to share her brother’s experience.
Her story, titled “The Life of a Sikh Kid”, has been published on the OLA’s official website, along with those submitted by the winners of the Grades 7/8 and 9/10 categories. Be sure to read it here!
Saihaj has written about the theme of her winning story and what compelled her to write it:
“This fictitious story goes through the life of a young Sikh boy from when he was four till he was eighteen. It exhibits the racist events he has undergone being a brown boy in predominantly white countries. This story goes through the experiences of facing racism at a young age and shows what effects it can have on a growing child. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who potentially wants to read it, but it does get a bit dark and may have some themes not suitable to everyone. However, it depicts the truth that many immigrant and native born individuals with darker skin go through.
Though this story is fictitious, I was inspired to write it by some experiences that my brother (unfortunately) faced himself. Throughout our lives, my family and I have lived in predominantly white areas with almost no brown kids. It was difficult for my brother to make friends at a young age because of his skin colour and that he wore his hair in a turban. Several events in my story are roughly based on his experiences, and show what he went through as a young child. I hope that through this story, people understand that people are not different because of skin colour. As someone who belongs to a minority, I know the struggles of being ridiculed and being ignored, and I want people to know that they shouldn’t differentiate because of skin colour as ultimately, we’re all human. I hope that readers make efforts to engage with those they see being marginalized and to learn about their cultures to help those people to embrace it, rather than suppress it.”
Everyone at MD sends our congratulations to Saihaj on her outstanding accomplishment. We are so proud of you!
We have a lot of fantastic writers here at Milton District. If you would like to read Saihaj’s story and learn more about how you can enter, visit ola.org.