McRoberts student wins A&E contest with essay

Ahmad Ali Jaffer
Ahmad Ali Jaffer's essay about astronaut Chris Hadfield beat out thousands of other entries in TV network A&E's Lives that Make a Difference contest.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

An essay about Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has earned a Grade 8 student from Hugh McRoberts secondary a $2,000 prize, and another $1,000 for use in his teacher Petra Mach's classroom.

Ahmad Ali Jaffer described Hadfield as an "out of this world" Canadian in his essay, which was submitted to TV network A&E's Lives That Make a Difference's contest.

Jaffer's entry won first prize in the Grade 5 to 8 category, selected from thousands of submissions received for the nation-wide contest.

Jaffer's essay focused on Hadfield's recent space mission, and explored Hadfield's down-to-earth style and the profound impact he has had on Canadian youth.

Jaffer wrote about a musical duet Hadfield performed in space.

"The song reflects that despite our world being so diverse, with different people and borders, from space these borders disappear. Together, we all live harmoniously on the same planet," Jaffer said.

He chose to write about Hadfield because he's inspirational.

"He inspired a lot of people to follow their dreams," Jaffer said outside his school Friday. "He talks in his books about how when he was little, he used to always want to become an astronaut."

There were obstacles along the way, but Hadfield remained committed, including going to university to pursue his education.

"He inspires people to work hard," Jaffer said.

Jaffer was urged to enter the contest by his mother, who is a teacher.

Dr. Libby O'Connell, senior vice president of A&E, noted that Hadfield was inspired to become an astronaut by watching the Apollo 11 moon landing when he was a child.

"I can say with certainty that he has done the same for today's youth. Ahmad's essay illustrates Chris Hadfield's impact on Canada—he has inspired a new generation of Canadians to dream big, reach for the stars and follow their dreams."

The annual essay contest is open to students from Grade 5 to 12.

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