Proud of them Gala held at the Ritz-Carlton
By Christopher Tobutt
It was a wonderful night to make the whole of Cayman proud of them: 14 young people who have shown dedication and excellence of spirit in everything they have turned their hands to, who were celebrated and presented with their awards at the Proud of Them 2021 Gala evening at the Ritz-Carlton. In addition to having their pictures on big billboards all over Cayman each of the honourees received awards of one thousand dollars.
The honourees were nominated according to the different areas in which they have shone, including Academics, Culture, Community Service, Career and Business, and during the evening there were video presentations of each of them, as well as entertainment from Matt Brown and Ric Roc and singing from Rico Rolando. James Geary began the event by singing the National Anthem and National Song.
In her message, Minister for Youth, Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said: “I extend well-deserved congratulations to our Proud of Them honorees for their exceptional achievements…I want to appeal to others that recognizing and supporting our youth is a critical step towards youth empowerment. More so, in our ever-changing world where the energy, innovation and optimism of our youth will be a crucial determinant of how we adapt to change and grow as a nation.”
Joanne West was proud of both the young people she nominated: “I nominated Leah Robinson along with another student, Moriah Praise Padua. I nominated Leah because I thought she was outstanding in her academics and her involvement with Junior Achievement and Key Club. She did exceptionally well. At 12 years old Moriah was the youngest of the honorees. In the short time she has had at John Gray High School she has already gained accolades, including certificates in Best Report, Outstanding Attitude Towards Learning, and Academic Achievement,” she said.
There were twelve more whose achievements are too many to list completely. Among them were Business Honouree 22-year-old Kianda Parchmont, who created a successful party and events company; and Kristina Powell, Academics Nominee who gained a 3.86 GPA in her Management of information Systems at the University of Tampa. Cassiedy Davies Quintero, Culture honouree, is a 20-year old whose passion for performing arts has led to an exciting career in the world of dance. Academics honouree Joelyn Scott, 20, who, amongst other achievements, obtained 10 CXC passes (at grades 1 and 2) went on to achieve an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts and is presently studying for a degree in law.
Academics, Culture and Community Service honouree Danielle Seales, 18, has a passion for the marine environment, and has interned and volunteered with the Department of Environment, learning all about their turtle programme; while 17-year-old Keya Berry, Academics and Sport honouree is one of the highest ranking students in her grades at Triple C School. She has participated in her school’s Key Club and Yes Club, and is also an athlete, having represented her school in rugby, netball and football. Academics, Culture and Community Service honouree Elihandro Bodden, 17, achieved 10 high level CXC passes, and is a dedicated community service volunteer. Academics and Community Service Honouree Chadene Brooks, 18, was placed into her school’s Goal Accelerated Programme at year nine, passing six CXC’s one at Advanced Level and is a school prefect has also been a passionate member of her Key Club.
Academics Honouree Jelani Hanson is just fourteen but already has eight CSEC subject passes at high grades to his name, and has participated in the National Spelling Bee, the Conyers Debating Tournament, the Rotary Club Short Story Competition and many others. Community Service Honouree Jayred Myles, 20 has taken a keen role in many community activities, and become the Social Director of the Youthflex radio programme. Jared is Former Deputy Head Boy of the Lighthouse School, where he gained awards for Perfect Attendance, Best Effort, Most Improved, and Student of the Month. Joshua O’Garro, 18 is an honouree in the Sports category, and made Cayman proud when he was ranked in the top 40 of America’s High School Male Basketball Players. Christon Ferguson, at just 14, has already made everyone proud with his outstanding achievements in academics, music, cadetting and community service.
Masters of Ceremonies for the evening were former Miss Cayman Islands Universe Monique Brookes and YCLA Alumni Shomari Scott. The Guest Speaker was former Proud of Them Honouree Bradley McLaughlin, who spoke about how he made the change from being, “somebody who none of the teachers wanted their class,” to becoming one of the top chefs, winning accolades in international cooking competitions after finding his passion. He encouraged everyone to find their passion too, and not to let anything stop them from excelling.