When Christian Valdez first set foot in Canada, he saw snow for the first time. It was spring in Winnipeg, April 2009, and up until then he had lived in the Philippines. “It was pretty, and I liked the cold because it’s so hot where I came from,” he says. Christian, 12, has embraced all aspects of Canadian life with the same enthusiasm. He loves going to national parks, getting into snowball fights, and having friends from all over the world. But what fascinates him most is the school system. “School here is free,” he says, “and you don’t have to pay for the school bus,” whereas many children in the Philippines can’t afford to get an education or have to walk great distances to get to class if they can’t pay for the bus.
Christian’s parents moved the family to Canada to give their only child a shot at a great education. In Paniqui, the town in the northern Philippines where the family lived, Christian “had the best marks in every subject,” says his mom, Wendy. “We saw the potential and knew we could give him more.” After three years in Winnipeg, Wendy and Christian’s dad, José, are thrilled with their decision to immigrate. Christian’s marks are still high, even after adjusting to a new language, different weather, and a new life. He loves Dalhousie School, where he’s currently a sixth grader, and says he wants to become a doctor one day. “I am proud to be a Canadian because we have a great education,” he wrote in his submission. “On Friday, at the end of the day if we have extra time, the teachers give you Friday candy. In Dalhousie School when you are in Grade 6, the classrooms have beanbags and futons that you can sit on.” His teacher, Pam Mainer, says he’s “one of [her] top students,” and “everyone loves Christian.” He plays the hand bells, sings in the school choir, plays badminton, volunteers with the leadership team, and works as a school patrol. “I love helping kids cross the street safely,” he says. “I also like that we get cookies and treats when we’re done our shift.” A Canadian-in-waiting, Christian knows what he wants to do when he and his parents receive their citizenship: “We’ll go to the Royal Fork” in Winnipeg, he says. “They have a great buffet there.”