Youth awards, a hopeful night — a night of inspiration

There were emotional moments such as when Khan Cordice’s mom burst into tears as she prepared to accept his cultural and performing arts award from Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

There were moments of gravitas, such as when featured speaker, Youth Ambassador Jameel Lee asked the night’s honorees, “what next?” challenging them to reach back and mentor other young people, to reproduce themselves in the lives of many.

There were moments of reflection, such as when adult awardee for his contribution to youth, Sowerby Gomes, reflected on the times when the enthusiasm of the young people he mentors in Villa Lions helps boost his own spirits: “giving me a sense of purpose to keep on doing what I’m doing.”

There were moments of grace, such as when education award recipient, Sanjoy Dowdy, speaking for all the honorees at the National Youth Awards on Saturday, declared herself to be humbled by the recognition and said to her fellows, “We must ensure that the next generation sees us as role models who are dedicated to excellence.”

It was a hopeful night; a night for feeling inspired.

Award shows can be self-aggrandising. They can be head scratchers – ie she got that, for what now? The Youth Awards, though, is never that.  Sure, it struggles year to year – even being cancelled last year as the Youth Department went through various travails, and being postponed this year for financial and other reasons. And, true enough, public participation in the nomination process could be better than it is – after all, don’t we all know one young person who doesn’t fit the stereotype of delinquency that too easily grabs media headlines?

But when it does come to pass and the citations are read, there’s never any doubt that these young people – and the adults recognised as friends of youth – are deserving.

In Education, there was Syreba Cornelius, Bevon Bennett, Shauna Abdouche, Rochelle Harris, and Sanjoy Dowdy; in named order – the top common entrance student, the top junior secondary student, the Christ the King High school valedictorian with grade one passes in 13 CXCs, the former tourism cadet who went on to be singled out as the 2010 Island Scholar, and the one who’s just added a first class accounting degree to her career of achievements.

In sports, there was Kiwanda Morson and Tahir Walsh; both achievers on the track, one named MVP among under 13 females at the 2010 Leeward Island Youth championships and the other, also an outstanding cricketer, scoring bronze at both the Carifta and CAC games and ranked 4th fastest under-17 boy in the world on track.

In media, there were two breakout stars – broadcasters Anika Kentish, of Observer, and Anderson Edghill, of ABS – as well as the company that year-in-year-out has the lock on this category for youth programmes like Junior Cabinet and Our House, the Observer Media Group.

In business, there were agro-processor O’Della Spooner of Picante Peppers; chicken farmer Jerome Crump of Crescent Farms; and entrepreneur Lenroy Browne of Supreme Security Services. Also, there are tourism standouts Vashti Ramsey, a product development officer responsible for initiatives like the tourism marketplace and island beautification campaign, and bartender Gavin Phillip, whose career trajectory reflects a preference for interacting with people over sitting in the executive offices.

In the arts, songstress Arianne Whyte, who recently released ‘The Music in Me’, and Cordice, whose pan-tastic achievements include arranging the 2009 winning panorama piece for Hell’s Gate, were singled out.

Repeaters, past winners who continue to distinguish themselves, include Zahra Airall who with her August Rush ‘twin’ Linisa George was recognised for her work in promoting the literary arts via open mics, theatrical productions and development programmes; artist Mark Brown, whose Angel in Crisis art show and work with young art students put him back in the running; Young Pioneer and Search Antigua founder Ken Shipley; and activist Bernard Warner, currently undergoing training in leadership development in Japan. Warner isn’t the only activist of note; Young Professional winner, Claxton Duberry’s work with the visually impaired was highlighted including the fact that he’s the only certified brailler repair specialist on island.

Barbuda’s Best was Xavier Bradley, profiled as a high academic achiever but also a versatile young man.

A number of groups – the Girl Guides, POWA; businesses – Best of Books, Bargain Centre, RBTT, Antigua Commercial Bank, Goldsmitty; and individuals – Camelda Michael, Roberta Williams, and Roma Creque-Hodge were also recognised for their work with youth.