Lewis gets closer to dream with Jill Stewart Sports Scholarship
FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Rhianna Lewis, who holds big dreams of becoming a professional track and field athlete, was left speechless on Thursday when she found herself the recipient of the Jill Stewart Sports Scholarship, bringing her one step closer to fulfilling her ambition.
Lewis, a resident of West End, Negril, and a student of the Rhodes Hall High School in Hanover, is the first-year recipient of $300,000 of a five-year $1.5-million scholarship, named after the late wife of Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International. It was presented on Thursday, at the Sandals Montego Bay resort in St James, during the MoBay City Run 2023 Scholarship .
“I just want to say thank you, and I really appreciate this. I don’t know what to say, but I am really grateful for this opportunity, and I will make the best use of it to give back to MoBay City Run and everyone who supported me,” Lewis said in a brief, emotional address.
Lewis participated in the 2023 CARIFTA Games which were hosted in The Bahamas in April of this year. At that time, she took part in the 400-metre hurdles, eventually copping a bronze medal for her efforts.
Speaking to The Gleaner following her receipt of her scholarship, which will see her receiving support for her education, Lewis noted that running has always been a part of her life. “Ever since I was in basic school, I always wanted to run. I love running and I really want to become a professional athlete and to empower others [and show] that running can take you a far way in life, along with your education,” said Lewis.
The aspiring track star became a nominee for the Jill Stewart Sports Scholarship after previously submitting an essay to the MoBay City Run committee seeking financial assistance for her schooling.
“I first heard about MoBay City Run last year, and then I went to do my research about it. I got a link stating that MoBay City Run is a running event, and I like running,” Lewis explained.
“I am really happy that I got the scholarship, because I put a lot of work in my essay, and I asked for a lot of help because I really want to go further in track and field and in my education,” she explained.
The Jill Stewart Sports Scholarship was conceptualised as a way to honour Jill Stewart, a fitness instructor and educator, who had always been a steadfast supporter of the MoBay City Run since its genesis in 2013 and had even won the annual event’s 10K run on a number of occasions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She died in July this year after a year-long battle with cancer.
Addressing Thursday’s handover ceremony, Adam Stewart noted that his wife was always keen about imparting education to others.
“She wanted to impart her knowledge on people, and everything she learned she wanted to share it so persons could be the best version of themselves. I just want to encourage everybody to do as much as you can do, and I support the message of ‘paying it forward’, as that is the fundamental principle that my wife believed in,” said Stewart.
“At the centre of it, we are all human beings and we are all here to [fulfil] a purpose. For those who use their time to help other people, like the team organising the MoBay City Run, it is a very beautiful thing and there is nothing greater in life,” Stewart added.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article suggested Ms Lewis would receive the full $1.5 million scholarship over the next five years. However, the recipient of a portion of the scholarship is to be determined each year.