19 get Prime Minister’s National Youth Awards for Excellence
From scores of applications, over 150 were nominated, 60 were shortlisted, but only 17 individuals and two organisations received the Prime Minister’s National Youth Awards for Excellence for the year 2022. They were presented with their awards by Prime Minister Andrew Holness himself, at a well-attended and festive ceremony on the lawns of Jamaica House on the evening of Saturday, February 4.
The awardees are Desmond Edwards, Dr Kirt Henry (academics); Ceejay Cunningham (agriculture and agro-processing); Justin-Paul Williams (arts and culture); Jevaughn White (entrepreneurship); Talk Up Yout (social entrepreneurship); Alexander Rhys Greenland (environmental protection); Kyle Lambert, Dr Kareem Heslop (innovation in science and technology); Jamaila Maitland (journalism);Makiri Whyte, Joshua ‘Tesselated’ Meeks (music); Alexander Shaw (nation building); Anabelle Jones (national leadership); Zaneta Alvaranga, Jaden Shaw (sports); Jamaica Association for Debating and Empowerment, Tanya Merrick (youth development). The 2022 World Under-20 and national triple jump champion Jaydon Hibbert was the prime minister’s special awardee.
In his programme message, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, among other things, “Each year, I look forward to see and recognise the youth of our country who are making a difference across various areas of national interest and impact. These awards have the dual effect of rewarding the tenacity, creativity and diligence of young Jamaicans, and inspiring young aspirants, demonstrating to them that dedication and patience will carry them to similar and even higher heights.”
On Saturday, the prime minister directly addressed the nominees who, too, were in the audience. He told them, “These national awards are important in a world where negative news is so abundant. The thing that goes viral is usually the negative thing. Tonight, we want you to go viral because you have achieved great things, not just for yourself, but for your country. We want your recognition to serve as motivation, encouragement and inspiration for others to pursue excellence in their chosen fields.”
Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams also addressed the audience, in which there were other ministers of government/parliamentarians, ministry officials, and members of the diplomatic corps. In her programme message, she remarked that “this year’s theme, ‘Reignite’, speaks to relighting a flame of passion, engagement, involvement and service”.
“This is a most appropriate theme to challenge and I encourage you to rekindle that flame of service to your people and country. We are excited by your creativity and innovation as you seek to address long-term and emerging challenges. We know you have a lot to contribute to nation-building and this is our way of encouraging that,” Minister Williams said.
Acting permanent secretary in Williams’ ministry, Maureen Dwyer, disclosed in her message that, since its establishment, more than 250 awards have been conferred. She said they continue to be one of the high points on the calendar of the ministry. “This national recognition serves as an encouragement to our awardees and other young people to continue being champions and role models for others in Jamaica. It is also a meaningful way for us to accord our recipients the recognition they deserve in their personal growth and development,” Dwyer said.
The major sponsor for the event was HEART/NSTA Trust, and its managing director, Dr Taniesha Ingleton, represented. She told the gathering, “This awards ceremony is a testament to the resilience, determination, innovation and excellence of Jamaican youths. This ceremony also serves to recognise and celebrate the achievements of young people who have made positive contributions to our nation.”
Each awardee will receive $100,000 from the HEART/NSTA Trust. Other key sponsors were the Sagicor Group, which donated $500,000 to be divided equally among the recipients, and the Institute of Law and Economics, which gave the special awardees in science and innovation, Kyle Lambert and Dr Kareem Heslop, $50,000 each.
Compères for the evening were Talia Soares, a former Prime Minister’s National Youth awardee for journalism, and Dufton Shepherd. Entertainment was provided by violinist Dayna Palmer (national anthem), Old Harbour High School choir, Digicel Rising Stars winner Mozein, Kevin Downswell, Campion College dance ensemble Ras-I, Remarkable Arts Company and dancehall artiste Lalee, who egged on the prime minister to ‘leggo de bird’.