Forty- seven of the nation’s youth, who have made outstanding contributions in various areas of national life, were presented with the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence during a ceremony held on the lawns of Jamaica House on Saturday (November 30).
The award recipients, which included new Reggae sensation Mikayla ‘Koffee’ Simpson; entertainer, Jamila Falak James; Reggae Girl, Jody Brown; Olympic Diver, Yona Knight-Wisdom; and popular YouTuber, Rushaine ‘Duttyberry’ Berry were selected from 87 nominees in 12 categories.
They were presented in the categories of Academics, Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Innovation in Science and Technology, International Achievement, Journalism, Leadership, Sports and Youth Development and Nation Building.
Three of the Nation Builder Awardees were also presented with a $100,000 bursary from Jamaica National Bank, while 12 of the nominees were presented with $100,000 bursary from Sagicor.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, in his address congratulated the awardees and nominees noting that he was very encouraged by their passion, dedication and commitment for excellence.
“All the categories of award are important by themselves and collectively and are contributing to the development of our society. We believe that it is imperative that we celebrate your positive energy and achievements and what we want to do today is to focus and accentuate the positives because you have been doing great things,” he said.
The Prime Minister further encouraged the group to continue to work and inspire to be positive role models for their fellow youth in the society.
“I want to highlight the positive achievements of our young people those who have strived for excellence and put them upon on a pedestal, so that the rest of the young people in the country can see and say, ‘I want to aspire for that, that is what I want to be’, so let us create positive role models for our young people,” he said.
Mr. Holness told the gathering that based on his interactions with some of the awardees who he has met in other youth month activities, “Jamaica does have a bright future.”
“There are many youths on whom we can rely on for a stronger and more resilient economic growth in fulfilling our commitment to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity,” he said.
For his part, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge, congratulated the awardees and nominees and charged them to continue to be LIT (Lead, Inspire and Transform).
“Your work and sacrifice are testament to the courage and determination of the youths of Jamaica, you are the hopes and dreams upon which our future rest. Often times people say the youths are the leaders of tomorrow but you have all demonstrated that not only are you leaders of tomorrow, but you are the transformative force of today upon whose shoulder the very prosperity of Jamaica rest,” he said.
Mr. Terrelonge further assured the youth that the Government has listened keenly to their issues and will factor in their recommendations which were presented during the Youth Parliament.
“As a Government, we recognise the challenges that every single one of you face and you have our sincere commitment that together we will work to ensure that those of you who do not have a voice, those of you who suffer silently, there will be an avenue for you to express how you feel and also to get the assistance that you need,” he promised.
Meanwhile, among the ecstatic and proud awardees who expressed gratitude and appreciation for the award, were Miss Universe Jamaica 1st Runner up Toni-Ann Lalor and Taekwondo athlete for Jamaica, Shauna- Kay Hines.
Toni-Ann, who received the award in the category of Youth Development, is the founder of ‘The Reach Programme’ which aims to empower, uplift and inspire confidence and broaden horizons in the mind of young people.
“I feel great, it’s a great honour. I never imagine this as I was never even aware that there was a Prime Minister Youth Awards, but here I am, an awardee. It’s truly amazing. Jamaica can continue to look out for great thing from me as I continue to inspire and transform,” she said.
For her part, Shauna-Kay, who received the award in the category of Sport said she was truly honoured “to get this award especially since I am from a very volatile community of McIntyre Villa in Kingston and to see that I can inspire other persons.”
The athlete, whose right arm is impaired, noted that “it does not matter where you come from or that you have a disability, you can be successful with the right support and mind-set.”
When asked what the award means for the disabled community she said, “We are not to be pitied; we are also important, and we also need inclusion in the society.”
Shauna-Kay is the first Jamaican para-taekwondo winner at the international Para-taekwondo event where she copped a silver medal. She is currently working on a project called ‘The Paralympic Project – Celebrating the Strength of a Woman’, aimed at securing equipment for para athletes.
Two hundred and seventy individuals have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence since the programme was introduced in 1998.
It is open to persons ages 15 to 29, who are living in Jamaica and the diaspora, who have attained excellence and world-class achievement.
The awards culminated the activities for Youth Month 2019 which was celebrated under the theme: ‘LIT: Lead, Inspire and Transform’.