11-y-o Jessie Ripoll student creates history in int’l poetry competition
Courtney Greaves, the 11-year-old head girl of Jessie Ripoll Primary School, has created history as the youngest awardee to date in the Global Poetry Foundation Competition and for being the first to win seven awards in a given year.
Greaves submitted her entries through written and video presentations, given that she was unable to attend the face-to-face finals in Amsterdam, Netherlands, recently.
On Monday, she was surprised at her school with the announcement of her victories and as Global Poetry Foundation representative Carl Little presented the trophies.
Little announced that the grade six student bagged the prizes for Overall Poet Champion, Best Environmental Poem, Most Outstanding Poet, Best Short Poem, Most Consistent Poet, Best Category Award, and the Open Category Champion.
Her victories also automatically made Jessie Ripoll Primary win the Most Outstanding Institution award for the 2023 staging of the competition.
Greaves was speechless when Little announced the sectional prizes.
“I feel elated to know that I am representing my country, Jamaica, as the youngest finalist and winner of the competition,” the 11-year-old told The Gleaner.
An overwhelmed Tanya Lowden covered her face while sitting in a wheelchair as the sectional prizes her daughter won were being announced.
“I don’t have words to say. I don’t have words to say,” the proud mom, who was diagnosed with spinal cancer last year, eventually managed to say with a broad smile. “I am proud of her and I pray for God to continue to bless her and cover her.”
Courtney only learned of the Global Poetry Foundation Competition about a year ago from one of her mentors, who inspired her to enter the contest because of her evident love for poetry, penning some 40 poems over the years.
She entered 15 pieces in the competition – one in each category.
Her favourite, she disclosed, was titled ‘Put Jamaica First’.
Courtney, who has also won awards in Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competitions with poetry entries, told The Gleaner that her love for the art began to blossom when she was about six years old as she developed a fascination with the works of the iconic Louise Bennett-Coverley.
“What inspires my writing are things happening now in Jamaica and from everything that my friends and family have told me,” she explained.
The last two years were not easy for Courtney, especially witnessing her mother’s health deteriorating due to spinal cancer. However, as the challenges come, she has remained steadfast and the Jessie Ripoll Primary community has been rallying behind her, especially with her preparation for her Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations.
PREPPING FOR PEP
With the time drawing closer to sit her final set of PEP tests, Courtney said she has been buckling down with the help of her teacher, Daneile Powell.
“I am getting myself focused, putting everything aside, and just focusing on my well-being and making sure that I am okay as well as my mother,” she said.
Powell cried as she listened to her student share her story.
The teacher complimented Courtney for her “fighting spirit and dedication like an adult taking care of her mother while trying to succeed in school”.
“What I admired the most about Courtney is that she is extremely dedicated for her age. I believe that she has such a fighting spirit,” Powell said, adding that she was impressed with how Courtney has been rallying around her mother since she fell ill.
“I asked her in December what she wanted for Christmas, and she said she wanted a dinner with her mother, and that, it touched me,” Powell said as the tears welled up in her eyes.
She added that the young girl’s battles at home with a sick and unemployed mother have inspired her peers at school.
“I admire the family because her mother, although battling cancer, is here every day and not just here for her child, but all the children for grade six. She is present and always here to assist ... and you cannot help but love them,” the class teacher said.
EXPECTING GREAT THINGS
Powell added that she is expecting greater things from Courtney as she seeks to gain a place at Campion College come September.
For her part, Lowden said Courtney had been showing admirable leadership skills since she was six years old and attending St Joseph’s Infant School. This came out in a major way when she impressed upon her mother and friends to host a candlelight vigil in Half-Way Tree some years ago for a late friend and other deceased children.
“She was saying that we must have service ... . She kept saying to me that she wants to do it, and although it was short notice, I got the candles and invited other people like friends to come out and give her that support,” Lowden told The Gleaner, adding that her daughter helps to give her the strength to keep pushing to survive.
“With God’s grace, I am pulling through. I don’t really let it get to me and I don’t want it to get to her because I want her to stay focused ... . I am just keeping positive. If you have faith, you can move mountains, and I have faith, so I will be moving mountains,” she said.
Courtney has dreams of becoming a paediatrician as she said she has a natural love for children and wants to assist persons who are ill.