A young West Bay woman studying in England is making her mark overseas and recently scored a notable first for the Cayman Islands.
Monique Banker, who is studying marine biology and coastal ecology at Plymouth University, was selected this year to represent her school in the annual Mr. and Mrs. ACS (African-Caribbean Society) UK 2016 campaign. She placed among the top competitors, a notable finish for Caribbean pageant participants.
The African-Caribbean Society aims to inspire, cultivate and connect young university students of African and Caribbean heritage across the U.K. Each participating school’s representative to the competition was selected after an audition, and the finalists were chosen by online voting.
“I was able to make it through to the finals at the pageant, which took place on April 4, and I placed second runner-up against 11 other contestants who were from African descent,” said Ms. Banker.
“From an initial field of competitors from over 60 universities, I am the first Caribbean student that has placed in the top three of this cultural pageant, and I was the only Caribbean student this year in the competition. I not only represent Cayman, but the Caribbean as a whole,” she said.
With the pageant over, Ms. Banker is now more focused than ever on achieving her goals.
Ms. Banker, who attended West Bay Primary and Triple C High School, has had a passion for the sea from an early age. She graduated from Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida, and then headed to the U.K. to attend university.
For a year after high school, she was a naturalist assistant for the Ambassadors of the Environment program at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. She worked with marine biologists to educate children and adults about environmental protection and conservation, presenting lessons on stingrays, turtles and parrot fish, and assisting with snorkel excursions, kayaking, underwater photography, Botanic Park tours and sustainable living lessons.
Ms. Banker says working with renowned marine ecologist Richard C. Murphy inspired her to pursue a career in marine biology. She said that witnessing the tremendous amount of rubbish that is dumped in the ocean each year sparked her desire to preserve marine animals and their habitats.
Ms. Banker plans on finishing her undergraduate degree in two years and wants to continue her studies for a master’s degree and a Ph.D., with the goal of pursuing the area of marine affairs.
“I’m very passionate about the environment because I would like for future generations to appreciate what I got to love and appreciate growing up in the Cayman Islands. I also would like to gain experience working overseas before coming back to work in Cayman,” she said.
“[Ultimately] I would like to come back to Cayman and run for a seat in government to help [put] in place laws that will help protect and conserve the environment and surrounding waters of Cayman.”