The Proud of Them initiative recognises the positive achievements of young persons aged between 10 – 25 years. Through a public nomination process, individuals are honoured in the categories of Academics, Careers, Business, Sports, Culture or Community Service. Each person selected will be featured for six months at a time on billboards established across the Cayman Islands, and will also receive a certificate. It is hoped that this recognition programme will encourage young people to continue to strive for higher attainment, while at the same time inspiring others to do the same.
Commitment to improving the lives of others whenever and wherever possible is a trait that every young person in the Cayman Islands should have. Eighteen-year-old Hailee Robinson, who embodies this quality, says: “To know that I have changed the lives of others who I am now fortunate to call my friends, is deeply fulfilling.”
From volunteering with the Crisis Center to walking dogs at the Humane Society, Hailee has been involved in community work from a very young age. Grateful for the life-lessons instilled by her mother Charmaine McGowan, she comments, “This incredible woman raised me as a single mother. She also taught me to strive for excellence in all that I do and has truly led by example.” The self-discipline and organization that she has learned from her mother keep her on track she adds.
In the summer of 2010, Hailee went on a mission trip to Haiti to assist victims of the recent tragic earthquake there. She helped to build houses with a local church group. The visit was organized by Youth With A Mission. During this time, she says, she came to realise that suffering is universal, and that as a result the most important consideration of all is to respect and preserve human dignity.
Later that year, Hailee was one of three Caymanian students selected by the Cayman Islands United World College National Committee to attend UWC-USA in New Mexico. UWC is an educational institution that unites peoples, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
In addition to being recognised by her peers at UWC as a “Phenomenal Woman”, she was chosen as a youth mentor. “I have found this role to be life-changing. Empowering young girls is a form of self-empowerment,” she states.
Living with people from over 80 different countries during her time at UWC in New Mexico, triggered a desire to learn about international living and cultural understanding.
Shortly thereafter, Hailee moved to Montreal, Canada, to pursue a degree in International Development Studies with a minor in Anthropology at McGill University. An interest in understanding the different factors that can effect the dynamics of a community led her to this choice of study.
“International Development Studies intercepts nearly every field of work and promotes an understanding of the dynamic nature and complexity of peoples, nations and cultures. It is also determined to tackle the pertinent global and local issues that affect us all,” Hailee explains. She will complete her studies in 2015.
Upon receiving news of her recognition by the “Proud of Them” campaign, Hailee said, “I am deeply honoured and touched to have my contributions recognised. Not to mention, having my face on a billboard seems so surreal!”
Hailee’s advice to young people interested in giving back is: “Get involved wherever you go. The Cayman Islands may be your home, but you are also a member of the global community and it is your duty to give back. Seek out opportunities to get involved. Be a leader and forge your own way and I am confident that you will be an agent of change in these islands.”
Upon completing her university education, Hailee plans to return to the Cayman Islands, to attend law school, where she will focus on human rights issues, and continue her active involvement in the community. Later on in her career, she sees herself involved in development work, perhaps with an organization such as the United Nations Development Programme.