Katelyn Allen-Romkey (2nd Quarter, 2009)

2nd Quarter, 2009
Media & Communications Scholarship
Katelyn Allen-Romkey

Katelyn Allen-Romkey was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. As a child she attended the historic Lunenburg Academy; or, as it is more affectionately known the “castle on the hill.” In later years, she completed four years of French immersion and took part in the International Baccalaureate program.

Katelyn continued her education at Halifax’s University of King’s College. Her love for literature made majoring in English the obvious choice. Katelyn is now completing her education with a advanced diploma in PR. Katelyn is truly exhilarated to enter the working world and begin what she’s sure will be an exciting and dynamic career in communications. She has huge aspirations and the ambition and drive to ensure that her dreams become reality.

A Portion of Katelyn’s Winning Essay:

It was a seemingly average elementary school, with several distinct differences. When playtime had ended, a giant cast iron bell, more than a century old, would chime telling us it was time to return. Our classrooms contained only fifteen fellow students, who all seemed to live in such close proximity that it made neighbourhood-wide games of hide-n-seek effortless. However, perhaps what was most notable was that it resembled a colonial century castle and sat atop the town’s highest point. The ghost stories surrounding the building were internationally known. It was there that I fostered friendships that have endured two tumultuous decades.

Katelyn Allen-Romkey

For all its beauty, the town of Lunenburg harbours a dark secret. It is a hushed and wilfully ignored issue, indiscernible to the tourists who visit there each year. They see the countless heritage properties, the horse drawn buggy, and a whimsical corner pub with a nautical theme. What they don’t see are the drunken twelve-year-olds that stumble through the quiet streets. They don’t see the crumpled cars smashed violently into unsuspecting trees. Lunenburg is a peaceful fishing village where, sadly, athletics have taken second place to drugs and alcohol; and where living hard and dying young is a reality all too familiar.

Within the last 8 years the death toll has been rising. Each year, Lunenburg and the surrounding areas have lost on average 6 young lives. In a community of 4000 these numbers are stifling. I believe that it is the South Shore’s most prized industry that must be cited as one of the key the problems. The lure of the fishing industry captured many young men before the ripe age of sixteen. Many, like their fathers and like my own, left school to board a fishing vessel.

The easy money drew them in, but it is their love of narcotics that keep them at sea. In this community alcoholism is a celebrated disease, and drunk driving is a Saturday night ritual. Moreover, in the last 10 years, cocaine use has become as laissez-faire as smoking cigarettes. Good common sense is lost here, and I fear that as time goes on, the situation may only worsen. In my short lifetime I have lost some of those dearest to me.

When I was but a toddler my father’s life ended moments after he turned the key in his ignition. He’d driven drunk successfully a thousand times but was not so lucky one rainy October night. Thirteen years later three close friends suffered a similar fate; and less than two years after that my inebriated boyfriend’s car came to a crashing halt, killing him and my best friend. Most recently drugs took a life in the most literal sense. A local legend went on his last binge, which was abruptly ended when he overdosed. There have been others, countless others, but it was these six lives that have made my career calling ring so clear.

My story is not special. In small communities throughout Nova Scotia substance abuse is becoming a persistent problem. Lack of education and parental ignorance unwillingly foster future drug abusers. In 2007, a statistic report on Nova Scotia students had frightening results. The data was collected from students from grade 7 to grade 10. It found that 69% of those questioned admitted to having drunk alcohol to the point of inebriation. Drug use was also prevalent; 33% of students confessed to having smoked marijuana. The same percentage admitted that they had used one or more of 11 suggested illicit drugs, including: MDMA, mescaline, LSD, cocaine or crack cocaine and methamphetamine.

It is the choices we make in our youth that often determine who we become in adulthood. These numbers inevitably suggest that a portion of these students will struggle with lifelong substance abusers. My ambition is to slash these numbers. I have chosen to pursue a career in Public Relations because I’ve always known that writing was a field I wanted to engage in. I want to give a voice to the unheard ideologies of an organization that aims to combat this problem.

Currently, there exists no national youth focused anti-drug abuse organization outside the Canadian government. This must be addressed! The problems these children face can be challenged through one-on-one motivational counselling, and the installation of positive peer mentorship programs. We Canadians can look to a US model for support. For example, SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, has had great success rates. In today’s media crazed world, it is not enough for a do-good organization to simply exist. At any given moment Canadians are confounded by advertisements telling us what to eat, which government official to support, and which charitable organization to give generously to. It becomes difficult to sift through these intrusive sounds and images, and discover what is real.

A career in Public Relations would allow me to open a dialogue between the people who need help, and the association that is offering it. The skills I will learn will ready me to take a leadership role in constructing an organization that may more successfully promote healthy living. I want to combat the issues head on. I want to alter the statistics. I want to lower the rate of untimely deaths. And most of all, I want to once again be proud to call Lunenburg…home! Will you assist me in my journey? I promise not to disappoint.

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