Grace Lee received the email in April. The subject line read: "Deadline extended."
The call came from the office of the lieutenant governor of B.C., Judith Guichon, who was taking entries for Sing Me A Song, a program designed to stir national pride in the lead up to next year's 150th birthday of Canada.
The next day, Lee presented the challenge to her grade 3, 4 and 5 music class at Ranch Park elementary and handed out maple leaf templates. She asked her students at the Coquitlam school to write a sentence or two about what Canada meant to them.
Later, Lee poured over the 110 responses and fell in love with their answers. Each statement was so unique, she said.
Lee, who was born in South Korea and moved to Coquitlam at the age of eight, thought about her experiences growing up in a new country.
Like so many of students in School District 43, she struggled to adapt to a new school, culture and language; however, with the help of her teachers and her passion for music, Lee settled in.
This morning (Thursday), Lee talked about her journey after her students sang their composition, A Little Thanks, before Guichon at a special assembly to honour the "country that has given us so much," Lee said. "What better song to have than a gift of a promise of a young child."
Guichon praised the school for its entry and honoured it with the Enthusiasm and Spirit Award, the first time a B.C. school has received the program distinction. "I think it's a wonderful reflection of your school's mission," Guichon said. "Take every opportunity to learn, lead and succeed."
Now in its third year, Sing Me A Song aims to promote music and community spirit in the province. It is open to schools, community choirs and amateur musical groups who can provide an original score.
This year's entries were judged by Lt. Matthew Clark, director of the Naden Band for the Royal Canadian Navy; Maureen Archambault, musical director of Youth Choir 61, the honour choir of the Greater Victoria School District; and Heather Pawsey, opera singer and artistic director of Astrolabe Musik Theatre.
Besides Ranch Park, the 2016 winners are: École Cobble Hill (under 11 category); St. Patrick's elementary (under 18 category); and Gabriola Island Singers (open category), which has won the competition two years in a row.