February 14, 2000
Leota students (left to right) Vanessa Denchfield, Andrea Smith, and Sebastian Kohlmeier. Vanessa and Andrea won $100 each, and Sebastian was the grand prize winner in the Seattle Times contest.
by Deborah Stone, features writer
Last fall, students around Puget Sound participated in a Seattle Times "Newspapers In Education" (NIE) program designed to promote literacy and cultural learning.
The program, "Teen Destination: Ireland 2000" (a contest sponsored by NIE and Parade Magazine), encouraged students to read the newspaper for seven weeks and complete an educational activity dealing with global learning and the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
Students were asked to submit a written or visual project demonstrating their opinions on world trade. Based on the quality of their essays and visual projects, four winners from the Seattle area were chosen to join more than 100 national winners on an all-expense-paid trip to Limerick and Dublin, Ireland.
At Leota Junior High, English teacher Barrie Huff entered her ninth grade students in the contest. Students read newspapers, participated in discussions on various trade topics, and did research to help them explore and understand world trade issues.
They also heard firsthand accounts on the WTO Convention through daily e-mails from Leota Social Studies teacher Jerrie Drinkwine. Drinkwine had received a Professional Improvement Project (PIP) Grant to intern for the State Department's Press Center at the WTO Convention in Seattle.
Using the information they had amassed, the students then wrote essays and created visual presentations on trade topics of their choice. Each of Huff's classes selected entries, which were then submitted to judges at the Seattle Times.
Three of the students, Sebastian Kohlmeier, Vanessa Denchfield, and Andrea Smith, qualified in the final round of the contest. Vanessa and Andrea each won finalist prizes of $100 for their personal opinion essays.
Sebastian, who had created a visual presentation, was one of four Washington students to win the grand prize trip to Ireland. Using collage as his form of expression, Sebastian showed how trade affects the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
"I chose this topic because Washington has close ties to Japan, but their relationship has problems, too," explains Sebastian. "I'm from Germany, and the relationships between countries really interests me. I also like to do art, especially graphics from cutouts, so I decided to make a collage for the assignment. I thought it would be more interesting, plus there weren't too many people doing visual presentations, so maybe my chances of winning something would be better."
Sebastian was really surprised to find that he was a grand prizewinner, and he is very excited about the upcoming trip. He says, "I've never been to Ireland, but it's been a country that has interested me. I'm excited to see and experience the culture and learn more about the history."
Sebastian has only been in the U.S. for a little over two years. He came with his family from Munich and has adjusted well to American life. "I like it here and I've made lots of friends," says Sebastian. "The people here are nicer than in Germany."
Finalist Vanessa Denchfield chose to do her essay piece on the environment and trade. She focused on the problem of lack of compliance with the Endangered Species Act of 1997--legislation requiring shrimp-trolling businesses to use turtle-excluding devices.
"This legislation was passed because these businesses were using equipment that caused sea turtles to get caught and killed, while in the process of getting shrimp," explains Vanessa. "The turtle-exclude devices cost from fifty to three hundred dollars per net, and some countries don't like this, particularly some of the poorer ones. Plus, the U.S. allowed Latin American countries a three-year period to comply with this ruling, but other countries were given just four months. There was the issue of fairness, and certain countries have been upset and basically not complying. The WTO needed to discuss this problem at their last convention, but they didn't. It is an important issue, because it affects the environment and trade."
Along with her interests in animals and the environment, Vanessa also likes theater arts, writing, and fashion design. She will use the prize money toward her future education.
Fourteen-year old Andrea Smith wrote her essay on child labor and the economy. She focused on how the U.S. and other countries discriminate against nations who use child labor and often ban trade with them.
"First of all, I believe that child labor is wrong," explains Andrea, "but if we ban countries who are using it, it will hurt both their economies and our trade situation. The harm will be to both countries. Developed countries need to look at where Third World countries are and help them move onward. Look at the U.S. in the early 1900s and our child labor usage. We've moved on, and yet we forget that countries that are developing go through these stages. We shouldn't discriminate against other countries because of their labor practices. These decisions affect the global economy. Helping these countries while continuing to trade with them is the way to make change."
Andrea didn't think her essay was going to win anything, so she was quite surprised when the call came from the Seattle Times announcing her finalist standings. She says, "It was exciting to win, and it's great that there were three winners from Leota."