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Cayman Islands’ Proud of Them Finalists Bios: Anja Ruth van Genderen and Bradley McLaughlin

Anja Ruth van Genderen, 17, – Bodden Town – Academics

Anja excelled academically throughout her high school years at Cayman Prep and High. She started high school in year 8 after completing grade 6 at Montessori by the Sea. Each year she would make significant achievements and secure the Principal’s award as well as top academic awards in various subject areas. In 2014 she was awarded the DART Minds Inspired High School Scholarship.

At graduation from Cayman Prep and High in 2106, Anja received two of the most prestigious awards in academics; The DART excellence in STEM and the Ernst and Young 2016 Achievement Award for excellence. She received subject prizes in Art, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, English, Literature, French and Physics.

In 2016 Anja was the top achieving student at Cayman Prep and High in her external examinations receiving passes in 11 subjects with 10 A*s and 1 A. In summer of 2017, Anja was successful in receiving an A in all five of her AS-Level examinations in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Extended Project Qualification.  Currently in Year 13, Anja is focusing on achieving her goal to study biochemistry at university next year in the United Kingdom.

Anja is also a keen participant in Model United Nations conferences each year since grade 9. She is a prefect and assists with tutoring younger students with classwork and homework through her school’s Learning Buddies programme.

In sports, Anja is a passionate equestrian and interacts with horses almost on a daily basis. She is the proud owner of a local Appaloosa pony and trains six days a week in the discipline of dressage to compete at the US Equestrian Federation 2015 Second Level Test 3 category. She competes locally several times per year and has placed in the top three many times. Last summer she was Reserve Champion for both the Preliminary and Elementary Levels in the adult category.

She is also a budding artist and combines her love of horses with her passion for art and in her spare time finds satisfaction in drawing, painting and making digital images of horses and other animals.


Bradley McLaughlin, 15 – Bodden Town – Culture

Known for his ready smile and his easy charm, it is easy to see Bradley McLaughlin just your typical happy-go-lucky teenager. You would be wrong. The Bodden Town resident may be young but he is already a committed amateur chef, a culinary master-in-training who has the accolades to prove it.

Through his involvement in the Youth Culinary programme, he has already competed and won awards in several local and regional cooking competitions. These include earning second place as part of Team Cayman Islands competing against cooks in the Caribbean Junior Dueling Challenge in Barbados earlier this year. Bradley and the two-person team brought home gold in the first three rounds, winning silver overall. He was the contest’s youngest competitor.

Previously, the Clifton Hunter High School student was part of a pair who won gold in the National Youth Cook-Off finals at the 50th Agriculture Show over a very talented Cayman Brac team. As well as placing first overall and being the winner of the Best Chili Competition, Team Bradley also received the Tanya Foster trophy for winning the title of Best Young Chefs. Bradley especially enjoys creating local dishes with a contemporary twist and sees the fact that he lives in one of the culinary capitals of the Caribbean as a blessing. His interests in the culinary field also include pastry work and creating desserts.

Bradley thinks that local and regional cooking is one of the most immediate forms of culture a society can impart. When in Barbados he was a youth cultural ambassador introducing people to Caymanian cooking.

As a born extrovert, it seemed a natural choice for Bradley to one day join the Youth Services Unit’s Youth Flex radio show. Knowing that he would later need to gain additional speaking skills to host the youth-magazine programme, he joined the local Toastmasters public speaking club programme. Now a graduate of the debating club, Bradley has the additional skills needed for public speaking.

With so many successes in the last few years, it is interesting to note that even Bradley admits that his life was not always so golden.  This changed when he discovered cookery on joining the Cooking Club in the YMCA after-school programme.  The discipline and focus Bradley learned in the kitchen soon began reaping dividends in other aspects of his life. And as his skills and confidence in the kitchen grew, so did his culinary talent, which shines through.

Cooking is clearly Bradley’s passion and it is a skill he wants to make into career.


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