Ammari Bryan: Spell master
Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
GRANTS TOWN, St Mary:A TALENTED young teenager from Grants Town in St Mary has been hailed as a future English language master after winning the parish's first A-step Spelling Bee competition.
Earlier this year, 13-year-old student at Hampstead All-Age School, Ammari Bryan beat 36 contestants from seven rival schools to collect the winner's trophy, certificate and cash prize.
Speaking recently about the contest, Bryan told Rural Xpress: "When I first arrived, I was nervous and started to fret, but as the day went on, I regained my confidence.
"It felt really good when they told me I had won because out of 40-odd competitors, I came first. It was a great day," he added.
In the week prior to the competition, Bryan was involved in a fight at school for which he was suspended.
However, through his involvement in the spelling challenge, the troubled but gifted juvenile was able to utilise his superior vocabulary skills to secure victory and rebuild his standing with teachers at school.
The contest, which ran under the theme 'Promoting Community Action for Empowerment in Education', aims to engage and motivate underachieving and disruptive young people and help them develop vocational skills.
The innovative new spelling initiative is part of a collaborative venture launched this summer by the St Mary police's Community Safety and Security Branch (CSSB), the Social Development Commission and the Parish Development Committee.
Bryan's father, Leaton, 46, believes the project inspired his son to take education more seriously. He explained: "Before I sent for Ammari in 2010, he used to live in Rema with his mother. When he arrived in St Mary, I sent him to a local primary school, but the children took set on him because he was new, which caused Ammari to fight, leave the school and run home.
"I changed his school and things started to improve, but a few months ago, he was rushed by some youths and had to defend himself.
"He was suspended for eight days, but when they realised no other pupil could replace Ammari in the competition, they had to draw back for him because he was the man. Now, he is doing much better at school and I'm very proud of him," his father revealed.
According to the officer in charge of the parish's CSSB, Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Elliston, Ammari's story exemplifies how the project can help transform antisocial behaviour in young people.
She said: "The Spelling Bee competition is part of our Safe Schools initiative, which introduces students to certain skills and subjects and tries to put them on a winning path.
"The project is an intervention measure involving the police, students and teachers, and aims to build relationships that are beneficial to all parties.
"It's particularly important to us because most of our programmes target high achievers and we wanted to do something for the young people who may have felt left out.
Looking ahead, Ammari hopes to develop a career in either medicine or sports, but is aware that to achieve these goals, he must dedicate himself to his studies.
He explained: "In the future, I want to become a dentist or a footballer, but I know that for this to happen, I have to take my education very seriously, so that's what I'm going to do."