A 12-year-old Gatineau schoolgirl won the prestigious Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities award for literature last May 10 after her teacher submitted her class assignment to the award committee.

Cheyenne Macleod was shocked when she received notification of her prize. “I totally didn’t expect it!” she said. “I got a letter in the mail saying that I had won so it really took me off guard.”

As a scholarship she has been pared up with Canadian award winning author of An Acre of Time and Riversong, Phil Jenkins, for one year of literary mentoring to help her develop her writing talent.

It started out as a simple assignment. Teacher Aaron Silverberg had asked Cheyenne and her class to write an alternative ending to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, which they were reading in the class.

“Apparently they really liked it so they gave me the award and, yeah, it’s really cool,” said Cheyenne, brimming with enthusiasm.

The MASC awards are given out to Grade 6, 7 and 8 students in the Ontario, Outaouais and western Quebec region for excellence in various different artistic disciplines such as drama, visual arts, literary arts, music and dance.

For a child of such a tender age, Cheyenne already displays an uncanny awareness of the world she lives in and its injustices.

“I like writing about things that have a lot to do with the problems in today’s world like racism, abuse and anything like that,” she said. “I like to kind of tell people about how bad it is and how people can help themselves. I like to give that message out to whoever is reading my work.” Looking towards the future, Cheyenne has already set her sights on delving further into her First Nations heritage. In her first session with Jenkins, he presented Cheyenne with a series of books on native culture.

“I know enough [about my cultural background], but it would be really cool to read books that were written by Canadian authors about Native culture,” she said.