June 23, 2021

12 extraordinary young Caymanians recognised for reaching higher in the ‘Proud of Them’ youth initiative

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Twelve young Caymanians have been officially named the “2020 Proud of Them Honourees” for their exceptional achievements in the categories of academics, sports, career, and community service.

Abbegale Seymour, Aliyah Myers, Arnold Berry, Lorena Morejon, Neesah Godet, and Zariah Anglin were recognised in the category of academics. John Michael Bodden and Raeanne Ebanks-Hydes were both recognised in academics and sports. Janelle Woods was recognised for academics and community service. Hannah Peralta was recognised in academics and career while Stephon Wright and Shakur Ebanks were recognised in the categories of career and community service respectively. 

Ranging in ages of fourteen to twenty-four, the diverse group of young leaders were recognised and celebrated during a banquet ceremony held at the Marriott Beach Resort this past Thursday evening and attended by high-ranking government officials, family and friends of the honourees. The ceremony was hosted by the Youth Services Unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands (MEYSAL) as part of the annual Proud of Them youth initiative.

Now in its eleventh round, Acting Director of Youth Services Unit, James Myles gave insight to the programme, “The programme started in 2011 as a discussion at the National Youth Commission based on a problem we saw with our young people not receiving adequate coverage in the local media for their positive contributions to society.  The idea of erecting the nation’s only roadside permanent billboards, featuring and celebrating exceptional young Caymanians was birthed to change the narrative. I am so proud of how the programme has evolved since and even happier about our Minister’s support and the mandate she has given to enhance the programme with a formal affair.”

During the ritzy affair, each honouree received a monetary grant of one-thousand dollars and previewed the roadside billboards that have been produced in their honour. Beginning on Friday, January 17, the billboards will be erected for twelve months at key locations across Grand Cayman.

Youth Minister, the Honourable Julianna O’Connor-Connolly, in her banquet address, congratulated the honourees and noted that she was very encouraged by their commitment to excellence.

“As time progresses and our nation evolves, the bar for excellence is continually raised. I am equally impressed with the ability of our youth to set the bar to greater heights. Many former honourees have already elevated to notable members of our society, who now contribute significantly to the social and economic development of our nation,” she said.

Ms O’Connor-Connolly also acknowledged the importance of solution-based initiatives such as the Proud of Them awards programme in shaping a bright path for our youth. “Proud of Them rewards, celebrates, promotes and encourages excellence amongst youth of the Cayman Islands”, she noted. “Our youth are the future leaders of the Cayman Islands and will be responsible for its continued growth and sustained development.”

Guest Speaker and former honouree Chauntol Clark, gave a spirited motivational speech and highlighted some of the opportunities that would become available to the honourees. The UWI medical student challenged them to not only celebrate the honour bestowed upon them but to view it as an opportunity and responsibility to contribute something even greater to society. “And I leave you with these four important questions that my father gave me to guide my own life. Ask yourself; who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going and how am I going to get there”, said Ms Clark.

The honourees were nominated by members of the wider public and selected out of seventy-five nominees. For more information on the Proud of Them initiative, including details about the next nomination period, visit www.proudofthem.com.

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