Inspiring change with Miss Sagicor’s Shanakay Ritchie
After much consideration and further motivation from her team members, Shanakay Ritchie decided to enter the Miss Sagicor contest.
The radiant 21-year-old member of the New Kingston Branch Premium Accounts team expressed in a recent interview that placing first in this year's staging has been her most surreal experience to date.
"The pageant had a series of challenges that needed to be completed leading up the grand coronation. We had to do a tour of the entire company, training session on company knowledge, volunteer at the aftercare programme and also a grooming process. On the big night, there were the talent segment, evening wear and interview session, before declaring the winner," she explained.
According to Ritchie, everyone was so amazing that she couldn't believe that she emerged victorious. So elated was she that she hadn't heard her name announced announced - she could only make out roars of applause, with all eyes on her. And when it was time for her to claim her crown, she remained still and had to be pushed towards her destiny.
But there's more to Ritchie than meets the eye. She has made it her long-term mission to inspire change - for her family, her community and the youth. She shared her life-defining journey with Outlook.
Born in St Mary, she recounts her days growing up in Jobs Hill as happy times.
"It was really fun in Jobs Hill. I could go to the river - swim and catch fish, pick mangoes and play games. I had a balanced life, going to school, church and chilling with friends."
She attended Oberlin High School, where she excelled, particularly in literary arts. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Education degree in English language at the University of the West Indies, while working full time. When asked why she chose English language, she confessed that the language chose her. "Surrounded by Patois, English language always fascinated me. By the time I entered high school, I developed an even deeper love for the language, as well as English literature," she said.
As for education, she attributed the emergence of what was an innate skill to her formative years in primary school, "I loved watching my teachers display their mastery in the classroom. During the summer, I hosted summer school on my verandah with children between eight and nine years (old) and I would also teach Sunday school over the weekend. My favourite teacher from primary school, Ms Wilson, gave me textbooks for the Grade Six Achievement Test and I would go by the mango tree and teach the material to my classmates."
She admitted that some of the material was unfamiliar to her but she read through it, understood the content, and found a way to simplify and relay it to her fellow students.
She took a teaching sabbatical of sorts, to focus on school, until after graduating high school. It was there that the bright teenager made a business out of offering summer programmes for her community, teaching kids five to six years old as well as 13-year-olds, in subject areas such as phonics, mathematics, English language, science, social studies and Bible knowledge. "I love working with young people. I like their energy. I even volunteered at NEMCO Church Camp, working with students from a couple of months to 14 years old, and was in charge of the music workshop," she divulged with bouts of excitement. Here's a fun fact: her love for music originated from her supportive father, John Ritchie, who shared a unique bond with his daughter through singing. She spread her wings and her angelic voice resulted in her winning the talent segment of the Miss Sagicor competition.
Strength and Improvement
Being the eighth of ninth children, she faced unfair shares in finances, but said that was how she saw the champion in her mother. She tried to fight back the tears, as she spoke fondly about the sacrifice and strength her mother, Joyce Montgomery, displayed as a parent.
"My mother always encouraged me to be better than her. She wanted to become a teacher as well, but she got pregnant in high school, crushing that dream. Whenever I feel down and want to give up, I think about her and know within myself, that's not an option. I want a better life for her. I want to give her a better life. She inspires me to be a better version of myself. And that's my motivation - she's my motivation."
Before Ritchie knew it, everyone in the room had joined in on the unexpected crying party she had hosted.
Setting her heart on changing her mother's life inspired the desire to change other lives as well. It is for this reason that she finds it so fitting that as Miss Sagicor, she has the opportunity to stimulate change and she intends to maximise that.
As Miss Sagicor, Ritchie represents the company on corporate social responsibilities at significant functions and embodies the company's core values, SCRIPT: Service, Communication, Respect, Integrity, Performance and Teamwork. Her advice to anyone wanting to go after their goals is to seize every moment that comes your way, "Opportunities in life are limitless. Any passion you have you should explore them, because you never know where life will take you and which passion would be right for you at the right time."