Jessica wins Westholme essay prize and a week work experience in Brussels

In September, Sajjad visited Westholme School in Blackburn as part of their European Day of Languages celebrations.

Sajjad Karim spoke to three groups of students about his early life and how he came to be elected as a Member of the European Parliament, his role as MEP and the workings of the European Parliament and EU institutions.

Following his visit, the languages department launched a competition for Sixth Form students with rather a unique prize – one week of work experience in Sajjad’s office in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Entrants were required to write an essay detailing how they had benefited from being part of the EU. An interesting topic at a time when Britain is debating whether to remain part of the EU or whether to leave.

Today  students and staff were delighted to welcome Mr Karim back to Westholme, to announce and congratulate the winner of the competition, Jessica Keenan.

“I am very pleased to return to Westholme to formally announce that Jessica has won the essay competition”, commented Sajjad.

“It is so important that young people understand and engage with our European neighbours. Language skills are a vital skill for so many who now have the opportunity freely study and work in other European countries.

“I look forward to welcoming Jessica to Brussels where she will broaden her experience, working with my office team on a wide range of assignments.”

Jessica will be taking her work experience week in June, following the completion of her examinations.


Jessica’s winning essay is published below:

In what way has growing up in an EU member state had a positive influence on your life?’

It is a universally acknowledged fact that strength is gained in numbers; people are stronger together; unions offer more support. Being part of the European Union is empowering. A dynamic politico-economic union of 28 member states chiefly occupying the continent of Europe. A powerhouse that dominates, innovates and augments every aspect of our lives through its policies. Amongst the 28 countries of the EU, is the United Kingdom, the place I call home. The wide-ranging advantages of the UK’s EU membership are clear, such as the free and safe movement of people around Europe, the fair deal for UK consumers, the consideration of our food and environment’s safety and the strategies put in place to fight crime and police borders. I have always been aware of these national benefits that obtain from living in an EU member state, which I simply could not now imagine my life without.

I am Jessica Keenan, a 17-year old student at Westholme Sixth Form currently studying 4 A-levels in English Literature, Geography, Mathematics and Spanish. It is clear that living in the UK (a member of the EU since 1973) has enhanced my existence, both directly and indirectly; socially, through my education, environmentally, through the rejuvenation of a local seaside destination, and economically, through the affordability of one of my favourite pastimes. In fact, my entire existence and heritage could be attributed to the UK and Ireland’s engagement with the European Union. Additionally, this understanding and recognition of the EU’s benefit on my own family, has increased my awareness of the current migrant situation and has given me greater empathy for those, who like my grandparents, found it necessary to leave their home country for a better life.

1969, in a small town called Church in Lancashire, North-West England a boy was born into a family with two Irish parents, both of which had emigrated from Ireland a few years earlier, who would eventually grow up to have a family of his own, of which I am a member of. Yes, both my grandparents were brought up in Ireland and moved to the UK for a better life for their family. Although this was before the UK and Ireland joined the EU, the opportunities and support that the family received throughout their upbringing has been impeccable. The freedom of movement has allowed us to visit the numerous relatives across the border with absolute ease and has kept my family’s heritage and Irish culture alive, from the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to a hearty recital of traditional songs at every family occasion.

Travelling has always been a passion of mine. From a young age I have visited Spain on numerous occasions to see my grandparents, on my mother’s side, who have worked for 6 months every year on a campsite near Calpe, in the region of Valencia for the past 20 years. The ability to visit and accessibility of these European countries is directly an advantage of living in an EU member state, and I have benefited greatly from the safe, simple and slick process implemented by the EU for the free movement of people. It has not only given me access to a different culture and environment but has also, inspired me to learn the Spanish language and continue to study it at A-level standard, with the hope of continuing my studies at University. Immersing myself in the culture from a young age has advanced my understanding of the need for multiculturalism and has directly affirmed my grasp of the language.

Pin-striped rock, amicable donkeys and scrumptious fish and chips. Three things commonly associated with the Lancashire seaside town that is Blackpool. A pivotal destination within my childhood. The school holidays, often dotted with many a day trip to Blackpool, whether it be the zoo or the beach, and not forgetting the annual pilgrimage to the illuminations one evening later on in the year. Blackpool is a place that offers something for everyone, young and old alike, and I will always associate it with happy memories and my childhood. Unfortunately, as I have moved out of the ‘bucket and spade’ era it seems that the younger generations have not filled my place. It is evident that Blackpool has seen a decline in tourism over the past 10 years due to a rise in popularity of other holiday locations abroad. Gone are the days of sand-filled sandwiches on the beach whilst the wind beats heavily onto the faces of holiday-makers, constantly awaiting the arrival of the rain. As part of geographical studies in the past, I looked at the rejuvenation of Blackpool and was delighted to discover that the EU had aided Blackpool’s revival with the investment of 2.75 million pounds in order to create a large and flexible events space in front of the Blackpool Tower designed to accommodate up to 20,000 people. This is part of a wider programme whose main intention is to revitalise Blackpool as an attractive holiday destination. I was elated to discover that the EU has implemented strategies in order to maintain my childhood haven and that it has had a positive impact so close to home.

Economically, the UK’s membership to the EU has been greatly advantageous, enabling Britain to have connections with a wide range of countries for trade. I appreciate these benefits yet I probably take them for granted as they are something that I have always been accustomed to. As a student, the struggle to define what I need and what I would like to buy is becoming increasingly harder as with more independence and a part-time job as a lifeguard I have started to understand the value of money. It is safe to say that, the majority, if not all, of my income is spent on clothes or makeup. The introduction of winged eyeliner and the art of contouring has cost me greatly. However, a recent discovery of online shopping has allowed me to save whilst purchasing new products. Whilst on holiday in Italy, I discovered a brand of makeup called ‘KIKO’ of which I would become a huge fan of. The allowance from the EU to bring the goods back without incurring any further costs encouraged me to buy a vast array of makeup and produced a smile on my face (highlighted by my new pink shimmer lip gloss). I can now buy further products that are priced the same in both countries from the online website of KIKO.

It is clear to see that these direct policies have had a positive impact on my life, but the ways in which the UK’s involvement within the EU has indirectly affected my life are as vital as the direct approaches. The EU as a whole has indirectly exposed me to two things: the power of democracy and the power of speech. To think that 28 member states, ranging in population and land mass, can have their say on how things can be collectively achieved to a high standard, intrigues and delights me. This particular fact has further enhanced my values of teamwork, equality and leadership that have improved my day-to-day life.

Being a keen public speaker and debater myself, I admire those that stand in the EU parliament to address such a large, well-educated audience on a topic that they are impassioned by. The deliverance and content of their speeches is often inspirational. Furthermore, their communication skills have educated me on the need for the spoken word and the importance of language; how one language can be used to unify 28 countries in order to solve and prevent problems from arising.


Therefore, it is evident to see that growing up in an EU member state has had an extensive, positive impact on my life and continues to do so, both directly and indirectly, economically, socially and environmentally. Observations to date as a mere 17 year old may foray into a deeper understanding of the EU and its many activities. These conclusions have certainly increased my awareness of the EU’s impact and I am sure to follow its policies more keenly going forward.