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Seaway Student Wins Provincial Award
Seaway Student Wins Provincial Award
Posted on 01/25/2023
Dean Contois is a shy and quiet student at Seaway District High School whose voice is being heard at the provincial level through his winning entry into the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) Student Achievement Awards.  

Contois entered his “I am human too” poem in the Grade 9-10 Applied Poem and Prose category of the province-wide OSSTF award program. He found out he took the top spot in his category late last week.

“I found out at lunch when I was with my mom and they told me over the phone. I was really excited, but I thought it would be rude to scream,” says Contois. “When I hung up the phone, I was jumping up and down.”

There are 66 public school boards in Ontario and secondary students from Grade 9 to Grade 12 are eligible to compete in this contest. Pamela Linklater, the teacher at the school who co-ordinates the contest, says she has been involved in the awards program for the last 10 years and this is the first time an Upper Canada District School Board student has won at the provincial level.

“I was so ecstatic when I heard that Dean won,” says Linklater. “It’s nice to know that when students put themselves out there that they are rewarded. Lots of people say they are interested in the contest and the $1,000 but not everyone follows through. I’m so proud of Dean.”

As a prize, Contois will receive $1,000 and get recognition on stage at the OSSTF annual general meeting in Toronto in March. To receive the provincial award, Contois had to win at the school level, district level and regional level first. In mid-December he found out that he’d won at the district level, receiving a certificate and Tim Horton’s gift card.

“It’s a really big deal to make it this far and Dean is so deserving,” adds Linklater. “His work was so powerful and so strong. You can feel the emotions in it and so many people can connect with it.”

Seaway Principal Trent Carter-Edwards echoes those sentiments. “We are so proud of Dean and so happy he will be representing our small school on the provincial stage. It takes courage to express yourself the way he has, and so publicly. We are certainly going to encourage Dean to pursue other writing opportunities as it’s clear there is a real interest and skill in this area.”

For Contois, writing is a passion. He says he likes to write as a way to express his thoughts and feelings and often shares poems and other works of fiction with his family and friends. For this contest, the writing aspect appealed to him but also the theme – “I Am Everything They Say I Am Not.”

“I don’t know if other people reading it will be inspired by it, but I hope they will be,” he said when asked about the impact he thinks his work may have on others.

Here is Contois’ winning entry:

I’ve been told a lot of things by people. People have told me I’m not clean. I’ve been called a savage, dirty, uneducated, disgusting. People have told me I’m not a real boy and never will be. I’ve heard you’re not strong, you’re not tough, you’re not proper, you’re not going to heaven.

I’m not Christian and never will be, but hearing them say I’m not perfect enough or I’m too broken chips away at me every day.

According to human standards I’m not “right.” I’m an Indigenous transgender man. Everything in that small simple sentence is wrong to human society.

They say these things to me to hurt me, but they give me more confidence every day.

You’re right I’m not that physically strong, but I can listen to these words all day and I still walk away the same man I am. I’m more of a man than half of you think I am. I’ve always felt this way; your small words don’t change that.

I’m not savage, I just know how to survive on my own. I’m not dirty, your thoughts are dirtier than my body. How can I be uneducated when everyone has different levels of knowledge? I can tell you things about my culture you’ve never even heard of.

I may not be a proper “lady,” but that’s because I’m not one. I don’t care that I’m not going to heaven. All I care about is that I live the life I want.

I’m perfect in all the ways I see myself. Everyone is perfect in their own way.

Yes, I break down into pieces but I pick them back up and glue myself together. All of them try their hardest to stop me, but all that matters is what I think and I think I can rise above you all. Eventually, you all will understand I’m as much of a human as you. Until then, I will prove it over and over again.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Trent Carter-Edwards
Seaway District High School

[email protected]

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