Jamaica Prefects’ Association announces essay competition winners
The Jamaica Prefects’ Association (JPA) announced the winners of the first staging of its essay competition at their inaugural student-leadership conference on Monday, February 25, at the University of Technology, Jamaica [UTech].
Thirteen students participated in this year’s competition, representing a wide cross section of high schools, including the Wolmer’s Girls’ School, Kingston High, Merl Grove High, Jonathan Grant High and the St Andrew High School for Girls.
Candidates wrote on the question, ‘How can youth leaders ‘level up’ and be more impactful in their school community?’ Senior University of the West Indies lecturer and chief adjudicator Dr K’adamawe K’nife noted the exceptional quality of applicants’ essays.
Despite the competitiveness, Chevonna Haughton from the Immaculate Conception High School emerged victorious. Second place was awarded to Sherai Campbell from St Mary High School, and Westwood High School’s Janeille McKoy copped the third-place award. The finalists were given plaques, cash and other prizes sponsored by NCB Capital Markets Limited and Sagicor Investments.
Speaking with The Gleaner, Chevonna said, “I am elated to be the winner of the inaugural JPA essay competition. My hard work has paid off, and the knowledge which I have gained while writing this essay has greatly enriched my life. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to enter next year.”
Elaborating, she said: “I wholeheartedly believe that as yeast causes dough to rise, so can youth ‘level up’ to become more impactful in their school community through enthusiasm, hard work and a like-minded community of friends and families. For not only our communities depend on our ability to do so, but also the ‘welfare of our whole human race.’”
With regard to the forum, she said: “I would like to commend the JPA for a well-organised and informative conference. The highlight was hearing one of my idols, Senator Damion Crawford, speak about what it means for us to be true leaders and to look at our country to make a difference. I also enjoyed meeting student leaders islandwide. I truly admire the work that the JPA has been doing, and I hope that more schools will join.”
Held under the theme ‘Effective Leadership through Integration’, this year’s conference brought together over 260 student leaders from more than 30 high schools. Relaunched last year October, the JPA aims to coordinate prefects islandwide and develop effective student leadership.
Prefects were addressed by Mitchell Watson, president of the United Nations Association of Jamaica, and representatives from the UTech. Kingston College student Timmoy Sinclair wowed the audience with his enviable vocal talent.
Additionally, Cleveland Tomlinson from the Jamaican Association for Debating and Empowerment (JADE) Limited led an interactive session outlining tips on how to be an effective public speaker, including the importance of demonstrating confidence and passion when addressing a gathering.
State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge surprised the gathering with his attendance at the conference. He highlighted the importance of student leadership and reiterated the Government’s commitment to their development.
Another high point of this year’s conference was the impassioned keynote address given by Senator Damion Crawford. He challenged the attendees to break the systems and mindsets that bind people into a state of dependency.
“You have to realise that interdependence, where I can depend on you and you can depend on me, starts with independence. The trouble in Jamaica is that everybody has to ‘eat a food’, but nobody can buy groceries. There is too much dependence and too little independence. Until we change that, then there can be no true outcome of leadership,” he said.
Sashanna Douglas, head girl of Ferncourt High School, noted, “As a proud member of the JPA, the leadership conference was, in fact, very successful as schools from all regions were represented in their numbers.”
She added, “It provided us, as student leaders, the opportunity to gain a new perspective ... as we as prefects left with a wide range of knowledge on how we can all make a difference in this society. But most importantly, this event gave us the opportunity to meet other leaders who share the same interests.”
Kingston College Deputy Head Boy and JPA General Secretary Blake Brown was also pleased with the support of this year’s conference. He said, “I believe that the conference was able to foster cooperation and collaboration between the schools across the island and orient prefects with the common goal of national youth development.” He hinted at even more ambitious plans going forward as the organisation pursues its mandate to facilitate the wholesome development of student leaders across the nation.