Within days of stepping aboard the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield had captivated millions across the globe.
Using social media, a bit of song and live video feeds with hundreds of schoolchildren across the world, Hadfield created a window into life beyond the atmosphere.
It was that incredible reach that inspired Esquimalt High’s Emma Roberts to pen an essay on the inspiring Canadian for the A&E Lives That Make a Difference contest, in which she won first prize against hundreds of submissions across Canada.
“People like the appeal of (Hadfield’s) nerdy science and tech background mixed with the fact he sings and is a good storyteller,” Roberts said. “He was using Youtube and Facebook and Twitter to document his trip, and I thought that was really cool because most people don’t know what it’s like to be in space.”
Her essay describes Hadfield’s global impact through the use of stunning photography from space, where he “emphasized our planet’s awe-inspiring beauty and undeniable fragility.”
In an excerpt from her essay, Roberts said Hadfield’s “perspective of our planet encourages all humans to see ourselves as shared inhabitants of Earth, and reminds us that the planet which we call home is not only invaluable to our own existence but is something worth fighting for.”
Libby O’Connell, senior vice-president of A&E, said many submissions featured Hadfield, and in some ways that complicated choosing a winner.
“He stole the hearts of the student generation, that’s for sure,” she said. “In some ways it made it harder (to choose a winner), but in other ways it gave us a context to look at writing ability across the board because so many people were writing about this individual.”
With her $2,000 prize, Roberts will head to the University of B.C. next fall to study general science. Another $1,000 will go to Esquimalt High and put towards their thriving poetry slam club, said Principal Colin Roberts.
Twelve-year-old Tavania Chichak of Glanford middle school took home the grand prize of $3,000 and coincidentally featured Hadfield in her essay as well.
“(Hadfield) reminded me of a space pioneer because he broke those barriers and that’s what the pioneers did to conquer the land of Canada,” Chichak said.
The annual A&E Lives That Make a Difference Essay Contest is open to Canadian students in Grades 5 to 12 to write an essay someone they believe made a significant impact on Canadian society in the past year.
See livesthatmakeadifference.com for more information.
-with files from Kyle Slavin