Proud of Them program honors 12 young people

Twelve winners of the government’s fourth round of the “Proud of Them” initiative were announced Wednesday evening at the George Town Yacht Club. 

The 2015 winners were recognized for their achievements in academics, culture, community service, sports and the arts. Each received a $500 stipend and will have their picture displayed on billboards across Grand Cayman for six months. 

The winners and the categories they were recognized for are: Ashley Amador-Rankine, 19, academics; Anu Abijith, 15, academics; Vitoria Jennifer Buttrum, 13, academics; Melanie Lee Ebanks, 22, culture and community service; Rochel Gardener, 17, academics; Shana Linwood-McLaughlin, 21, academics and community service; Kristiann Powell, 18, community service; Chanelle Monique Scott, 15, academics; Chante Smith-Johnson, 18, sports; Janell Taylor, 17, academics; Nathaan Whittaker, 17, academics, culture and community service; and Romaine Natalie Williams, 21, community service. 

The award recipients join another 36 young people who have been recognized to date by the program, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Youth and the National Youth Commission. It was created as a way to counteract a negative perception of today’s youth, organizers said. 

This year’s applicants were chosen from a pool of 109 nominees. Nominations were evaluated by a five-member committee, which included one of last year’s Proud of Them winners, Loshana Lopez-Francis. 

Noting the group’s achievements and the fact that 10 recipients are female, Youth Minister Osbourne Bodden, speaking at the award ceremony, said, “Our young ladies seem to be doing better than our young men. The guys have to step up their game.” 

There were 109 nominees – 36 male and 73 female – for this year’s awards. 

Mr. Bodden said that he would like to see more young men performing at the same caliber as the female nominees. When asked what could be done to increase the number of male nominees, Mr. Bodden said, “We have to look at the school system and how it’s catering to our students.” 

National Youth Commission chairman, Rev. Donovan Myers, praised the “stick-to-it-tiveness” demonstrated by this year’s award winners. He said the recipients are “the epitome of our community’s aspirations and ideals.” 

“Contrary to the myth that Cayman’s young people are uninterested, uninhibited and unachieving, the truth is that a significant percentage of young people are connected, are creative, and are conscious both of their potential as well as the role that they play within the community,” Rev. Myers said. 

The youngest winner, 13-year-old Vitoria Buttrum, said even though she is confident, she was very surprised to be included among this year’s award recipients. She credits her parents for her accomplishments, but said she also has an innate drive to succeed. 

“I want to have a purpose and know when I look back at my life that I did something,” she said. 

Readers can find out more about this year’s Proud of Them award winners as the Cayman Compass will profile each of them in the coming weeks. 


Clockwise from top left, Proud of Them award winners Rochel Gardener, Melanie Lee Ebanks, Shana Linwood-McLaughlin, Kristiann Powell, Vitoria Buttram, Chanelle Monique Scott and Janell Taylor.

Vitoria Buttram

The youngest 2015 ‘Proud of Them’ award winner, 13-year-old Vitoria Buttram. – PHOTO: KELSEY JUKAM

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