Nathaan Whittaker, 17, from Bodden Town received the Proud of Them award for his substantial contributions to and accomplishments in all five categories: academics, career, business, culture and community service.
“It was a surprise [to receive the award] because at the time I was in the U.S. working with my church youth group’s yearly missions trip,” Nathaan said.
His mother collected the award on his behalf.
“That was just perfect for me,” he said. “Without God and her, I would not be able to achieve this great accomplishment.”
As the only recipient to be recognized in all categories, Nathaan credits his achievements to his hard work and diligence.
“I believe I received the award because of my perseverance and dedication to do well, for taking responsibility and taking care of my family,” he said.
Nathaan said that he especially had to step forward when his mother was battling cancer by taking care of his younger brother, who has special needs, and helping to pay the bills while still being in school.
“I want to always be the kind of man that never abandons his family or people, especially when they need you the most, no matter what the situation is,” he said. “I want to always help however I can.” Nathaan is a senior at Triple C School and said he intends to become an attorney.
“I am working hard to become an attorney to represent and protect the best interests of families like mine,” he said. “I am also interested in corporate law.”
When he is not working with the ARK Foundation assisting families in need, going on mission trips with his church group, participating in Junior Achievement, working at banks during his breaks from school, or participating in the Cadet Corps, Nathaan said he enjoys spending time with his brother and friends, going fishing, shopping, and cooking with his mother.
Working with the ARK Foundation, which stands for Acts of Random Kindness, is particularly close to his heart because they have assisted his family in the past. “You would be surprised how many of our people are in need of a can of soup or just anything to eat, period,” he said. “When a stranger that doesn’t even know you comes to your house, listens to your needs and helps, it is like a prayer answered from God.”
The preservation of Cayman’s culture is also extremely important to Nathaan. “As a part of the upcoming generation, it is important to learn from our elders and preserve our rich history and, most importantly, represent our country well for the whole world to know what a Caymanian is capable of doing and doing it well.”
Nathaan said he aims to always encourage and help others around him.
“I want people of all ages to know that we need to never give up, even when you don’t see the way out,” he said. “We must support each other and not hide behind shame or pride. Unfortunately, our culture has this tendency at times.
“I thank God every day for his mercy and grace over my life and my brother, and thank God for a phenomenal strong mother and survivor, who teaches me every day what is truly important in life.”
The Proud of Them initiative recognizes the positive achievements of young people ages 10 to 25. Through a public nomination process, individuals are honored in the categories of academics, careers, business, sports, culture or community service. Each young person selected is featured for six months at a time on billboards across the Cayman Islands, and receives a certificate and $500.