The Young Caymanian Leaders Foundation on Friday named three women and two men as finalists for the top spot in 2015’s annual awards contest, choosing among musicians, health professionals and finance experts.
The five were chosen from among 38 nominees whose names were submitted to a five-member selection committee, who researched each candidate, culminating in face-to-face and telephone interviews.
The finalists are: Rebekah Jefferson, 33, a jazz singer and music teacher at West Bay’s Sir John A. Cumber Primary School; Taylor Burrowes, 36, a mental health counselor and therapist at the Wellness Centre; Kellie McGee, 27, a medical researcher at Camana Bay’s Ironshore Pharmaceuticals & Development; Stephen Watler, 35, an associate and funds specialist at Maples and Calder; and Robbie Cribb Jr., 25, staff accountant at Deloitte.
Ms. Jefferson, daughter of former West Bay UDP MLA John Jefferson and great niece of former Leader of Government Business and Financial Secretary Thomas Jefferson, was born and raised in West Bay, graduating from Wesleyan Christian Academy in 1999. She gained a 2004 bachelor’s degree in music education from Florida Southern University, specializing in voice and opera studies.
“I was overwhelmed, honored and, honestly, in shock, when I was chosen,” she told the Cayman Compass.
She has been at John A. Cumber for 11 years and says she wants “to continue to inspire young people, which I try to do on a daily basis. I want to share a message of hope, determination and excellence. I want Caymanians to be known for excellence.”
Ms. Burrowes was born in George Town, and attended Catholic School – before it was St. Ignatius – followed by Cayman Middle School – before it was George Hicks, finally graduating from Miami County Day School in 1997. She finished Tulane University in 2001 with a triple major, then gained a master’s in counseling from nearby Loyola University in 2004.
For the next decade, Ms. Burrowes lived, worked and studied for her doctorate at Barry University in Miami Shores.
Today, she is a licensed mental-health counselor, a marriage and family therapist with a Ph.D. in marriage and family counseling, specializing in sexual trauma recovery. She is deputy chair of the Mental Health Commission, public relations officer for the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation and an active member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
She was thrilled by her selection as a finalist: “I have already thanked God for this blessing numerous times. I am very excited about this honor because it will provide a wider platform for my social justice and advocacy efforts,” which include promoting holistic mental health, community awareness, and prevention and remediation of the prolific nature of sexual trauma, she said.
The award, Ms. Burrowes said, offers a platform “to plant seeds of acceptance, hope, and growth in the minds, hearts, and lives of all the youth I encounter.
“I want them to understand that they are worthy of love and safety and should never think ill of themselves.” Any harm, she said, “is merely a reflection of the failings of those around them and they may create the happy and healthy life experiences they dream of with a little help and a lot of courage.”
A native of Savannah, Ms. McGee graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 2004 while interning at Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital. In 2007, she started at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, ultimately gaining a bachelor of science (with honors) in medical sciences. In 2013, she gained a master of sciences degree in international health management at Imperial College London. In 2013, she was selected for an internship at the World Health Organization in Geneva.
She greeted her selection as a YCLA finalist “with a radiating smile,” she said, describing herself as “deeply humbled and honored.”
The award, Ms. McGee said, reminds her that “it wasn’t long ago that I was facing many of the challenges and difficult decisions that youth today face.
“I had a fairly strong support system to help me through many of the challenges, but the reality is that many youth don’t,” she said. “The opportunity to step back into the[ir] shoes and offer words of encouragement or career and life advice that could have been useful to me 10 years or 15 years ago, would be gratifying.”
Mr. Watler is a native of Lower Valley and lives in George Town. He graduated from John Gray High School in 1997, followed by four years at Toronto’s York University Schulich School of Business. Finishing in 2002, he attended the College of Law at the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, completing his degree in 2004.
The following year, he joined Maples and Calder as a trainee, finally qualifying and gaining admission to the Cayman Islands Bar in 2007.
Mr. Watler is a council member of the Caymanian Bar Association, and a member of the Cayman Islands Law Society and the Law Society of England and Wales. He is also a member of the board of governors of the University College of the Cayman Islands.
“Honestly, it was unexpected,” he said of his nomination. “I had heard there were something like 40 nominees so I had no expectations. I put it out of my mind.”
When the call came late last week, Mr. Watler said, “it was [a] huge surprise.”
The award, he said, “plays an important part [in Cayman] and is something I strongly support I am happy to participate and do whatever I can to help.”
If chosen as 2015’s winner, “my big objective is to use that selection to shed light on one of the initiatives of the Caymanian Bar Association, aimed at young Caymanians interested in a legal career, what they can expect, showing them what it’s like.”
Robbie Cribb Jr.
Mr. Cribb, from George Town, graduated from St. Ignatius, finishing in 2006, followed by another two years in a Tampa, Florida, college preparatory school.
He entered Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, 50 miles north of the state capital at Little Rock, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in business, and a focus in accounting.
He quickly won a grant from Deloitte to pursue a master’s degree, and entered Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, gaining a master of science in accounting in 2013.
“I did my CPA at the same time,” he said, finishing up in December 2013 and starting at Deloitte in January 2014.
“I’m in a good place, on the right track,” he said, preparing to assume the role of senior accountant in October.
“I didn’t really expect anything,” said Mr. Cribb of his nomination. “In fact, I had kind of forgotten about it, and when the call came, it caught me by surprise. It was an honor. There are a lot of people I respect who’ve been in this.”
If chosen to top the group,” he said, “I would like to be a role model for the younger generation. There are a lot of people looking for someone to look up to. I’m not sure what opportunities the YCLA offers, but I want to reach out to younger kids, get them to believe in themselves.”
The 15th annual awards ceremony, advertised as a gala event, will be at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Oct. 17.