Young nominees in the Rubis Top Student challenge faced steep competition this year. Nominations came in from every school in the Cayman Islands for the second year of the awards program, demonstrating the islands’ breadth of young talent.
In the end, only a few points separated the grand prize winner from nine fellow finalists.
The program, launched last year in Cayman, rewards students ages 7-12 with grant money to support their passion in sports, music, art and academics.
Xhalecia Grayson, 11, of Wesleyan Christian Academy took home the top prize, $5,000, for her dedication to singing, music and school. She will represent the Rubis corporate office this year.
“I wanted to buy a computer and speakers so I would be able to write my own music and everything. Overall, winning the $5,000 was kind of surprising because there were a lot of good people in there, so I thought someone else could win it instead of me. So it was very surprising,” she said after the awards ceremony at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands on Thursday evening, Sept. 14.
“[I’m] excited because I always wanted to get a laptop so I could be able to do the things I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to get extra lessons at the Cayman Music School.”
Nine other students were awarded $1,000 each. Finalists included Amina Sureta, Amiah Myles, Garson Gardiner, Jade Barnard, Moriah Praise Padua, Rianna Rankin, Draecen Burton, Rian Vivas and Lindsay Hydes.
Each student will represent a Rubis store on island for the year as part of their prize.
Three students from Lighthouse School were also recognized. Jevano Style, Sharyah Williams and Devano Style were honored for their interest in music. These students will benefit from a Rubis grant to support a music program at the school.
“When we received the submissions, we were so overwhelmed that these kids stepped out of their comfort zones and did the particular program for us, that we decided to award all three of them tonight. We’re going to give the Lighthouse School a grant toward a music program,” said Jermaine Sharpe, head of sales and marketing for Rubis.
Minister of Culture Dwayne Seymour praised the students for strong submissions and talents.
“You have all demonstrated that you excelled in your areas of interests, whether it’s academics, sports or culture and arts. I’m very impressed by each of the entries. I also want you to know how proud you have made your parents, families, teachers and classmates,” Mr. Seymour said.
“You are a shining example of the quality of students we have in schools across the Cayman Islands.”
The students received words of praise from several other government officials, including Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, as well as encouragement by video from notable Caymanians, such as Miss Cayman Islands Anika Conolly.
Acting Minister of Education Barbara Conolly encouraged initiatives like the Rubis Top Student awards to support youth development.
“I’m a firm believer that youth need opportunities to develop their God-given talents. As a community, it is our job to provide those experiences. I commend Rubis for making talent development more accessible for the students selected and lightening the financial burden to their families,” Ms. Conolly said.
Following the awards ceremony, attendees were treated to a Rubis’s 5th anniversary celebration and Chamber of Commerce after-hours party with music and food on the National Gallery lawn.