Meet the finalists

On Friday, 6 May, five finalists for the Young Caymanian Leadership Award will be honoured in a gala celebration at the Ritz-Carlton.

The 2011 recipient of the YCLA will be announced in a live telecast on Cayman 27 of the awards ceremony.

The Observer on Sunday introduces you to the five impressive finalists:

Richard Christian

Richard Christian has crammed a lot into his 33 years.

Christian, from Bodden Town, sits on the National Youth Commission Board; is president of the Young United Democratic Party; is PTA vice president at Savannah Primary School; is the youngest elder and a youth leader at Savannah United Church; is deputy chairman of the Bodden Town District Council; and was recently elected president of his Neighbourhood Committee.

He is also the youngest manager at Caledonian Trust (Cayman) Limited, managing the corporate department.

Last year, he won the Spirit of Excellence Award for “Exemplary Christian Service” in the National Heroes Day ceremony, and helped form the “Let’s Do Som’Um Nah” committee that organised a march against youth violence in West Bay.

He was nominated by his work colleague, Sabina Jerrybandan, at Caledonian, who felt he should be recognised for his work in the community and his trip to Haiti where he helped lead a youth mission to build a home for two families who had lost their homes in the earthquake.

He says he’s honoured – and a little bit embarrassed – to be nominated as a YCLA finalist. “I’m honoured that people acknowledge the things I’ve done in the community… I don’t really like attention that much. I’m not doing this for recognition. It’s a humbling experience,” he says.

Ventisha Conolly

Ventisha Conolly works as a physical education teacher at the Cayman Brac High School, where she herself was educated and where she was recently appointed head of the Arts and Technology department.

She is a past president of the Lions Club of Cayman Brac; chairperson for the Miss Teen Cayman Brac Pageant Committee; president of the Sports Association of the Sister Islands, the Business and Professional Women’s Club and Netball Coach for the Cayman Brac team; and a member of the Fellowship Baptist Church.

Since her return from college, 30-year-old Conolly has helped re-introduce discontinued sports in Cayman Brac, including netball, swimming, football and track and field programmes, and helped secure sponsorships so that young athletes can compete in Grand Cayman.

Growing up, Conolly, the eldest of four, took care of her siblings while her mother worked multiple jobs.

She says she was “quite shocked and humbled” to be nominated for the YCLA. “And then to be chosen as a finalist means that I am doing something right with the youth of my community and my family,” she says.

Conolly says her volunteer and community work, for which her younger sister Danielle nominated her for the YCLA award, is her way of giving back and thanking her community for helping her see her potential in life.

She has been inspired by her family to volunteer in the community. “From my mom and sister Genista cooking food for a food sale for a special event free of charge… to Danielle being asked two days before Christmas to go buy gifts for some little boys that were going have a really tough Christmas after losing their dad, to my little brother helping to setup an event for the BPWC because I can’t be there,” she says.

Natalie Urquhart

Anyone who spends time at the National Gallery will know Natalie Urquhart and the work she does with young artists and in promoting art in Cayman.

Urquhart, 35, joined the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands as education officer in 2002 and became the gallery’s director in 2009.

Before working for the National Gallery, she volunteered as PR chairperson of Friends of the Gallery and in 2008, launched the Cayman Contemporary Arts Initiative, an artist cooperative and arts administration body providing free arts education for Cayman based artists.

She participated in Mentorship Cayman in 2009 and has created a specialised mentorship programme for young artists and performers, scheduled to launch in September 2011.

She was awarded the Cayman Islands Cultural Scholarship in 2005 and was recently received a Star of Creativity for her contributions to culture at the 2010 National Arts and Culture Awards.

Urquhart says she had been collectively nominated by her husband Sandy, work colleagues, associates and artists. “I was truly honoured that each had taken the time to support the nomination for the work that I’ve done at the National Gallery and within the wider community,” she says.

She believes it is essential for young people who aspire to be leaders of the future to “be authentic, open-minded, creative and tolerant of difference; to have passion, determination and to stay true to your core values”. She urges them never to lose their curiosity and to constantly seek to expand their awareness about self, community and the world in which they live.

Chantal Whittaker

Budding lawyer Chantal Whittaker, 28, represents North Side in this year’s YCLA event.

She is currently employed at Mourant Ozannes as an articled clerk. Prior to joining Mourant Ozannes, she spent several years working at Trident Trust Company (Cayman) Limited.

She has been captain of the North Side Company of the Cayman Islands Girls’ Brigade since 2008, where she mentors young girls between the ages of 5 and 18.

Whittaker is also a member of the Cayman Islands Youth Parliament. She is an active member of the William Pouchie Memorial Church and serves on the Youth Choir.

She has also been recently elected as Director of the North Side District Council Executive Board.

Whittaker believes members of the community should work to teach children by example and support.

“As a community, we have to be willing to help our children with those tools provided by the family, teach them how to use those tools, for without instructions or examples to follow, it will prove to be unfruitful. In the end, we only respect those we love, love what we understand and understand what we are taught,” she says.

Shari Whittaker

Shari Whittaker, 25,

has worked closely with her local community in North Side for several years.

She has been

actively involved in programmes and events to make North Side a vibrant community, including the Pageant Committee, Pirates’ Week Committee and outreach programmes.

She is leader in the Girls’ Brigade in North Side and, in 2006, represented the Cayman Islands as Young Emerging Leader at the International Conference of Girls’ Brigade in Northern Ireland.

Whittaker is an Officer of the North Side Girls Brigade Company. She is an advisor in the Cayman Islands Junior Achievement Programme for the Cayman National Bank team.

She works Cayman National Bank as the manager of Bank Marketing. Prior to joining the bank, she was a marketing assistant at Maples and Calder.

Whittaker is an active member of the William Pouchie Memorial Church and serves as a member of the youth choir.

She believes families play an integral role in forming a person

“The family unit is the foundation of an individual, it moulds and shapes persons into who they become in the future. Discipline, personality and aspirations are all founded upon the family life. As a society, it is important that we get back to the days of old where communities lived in harmony and proper upbringing was heralded by all,” she says.