Officials announce Proud of Them recipients

Officials and recipients of the Proud of Them awards, from left: The Rev. Donovan Myers, Julius Smith, Tya Bovell, Rochelle Brown representing her twin brother Rasheem Brown, Trevor Carmola Jr., Zolla Jones, Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, education acting chief officer Cetonya Cacho, Janelle Smith, Keanu Oliver, Taneil Lee, Deija Myles and Anissa Hoyte. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

A dozen students were honored Wednesday evening at the annual Proud of Them award ceremony at the George Town Yacht Club.

The awards are presented to students who do outstanding work in academics, sports and/or community service. Each winner will be spotlighted on billboards that are placed strategically around Grand Cayman. They also receive a $500 check.

“I don’t think there’s a better use of signs,” said Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, acknowledging the islands’ limited number of roads. “I’m looking very eagerly to seeing your faces as I drive through Cayman. I’m going to be a very proud minister willing to blow my horn and tip my hat to you.”

Most recipients said they were surprised at being recognized.

Tya Bovell, 17, a student at Triple C School, expressed her reaction in one word.

“Wow!” Ms. Bovell said. “I was surprised. What did I do? It’s good to see all this work is paying off.”

That work has included being prefect for the National Youth Culinary Program, and running her own small cupcake business, Cupcakes by Tya. She also is involved in service activity and was named Key Clubber of the Year in 2017. And she plays rugby.

Ms. Bovell said the award was more significant than any she’s received in the past.

“All the awards I’ve gotten are school-based,” she said. “It feels good to be put out islandwide and regional for it.”

Recipients ranged from college students, such as Taneil Lee, to Trevor Carmola Jr., who recently finished Year 7 at Clifton Hunter High School.

Ms. Lee, who attends the University of South Florida as a public health major, has worked as an intern at Health City since 2015. She hopes to become a physician assistant and eventually practice in Cayman.

In addition to her work at Health City, she is also doing research correlating certain genes with cancer rates.

“I was so shocked,” Ms. Lee said of receiving the Proud of Them award. “I’ve been working really hard and it’s great to see that others have noticed my work.”

She said she believes the publicity that goes along with the award “has a domino effect” by encouraging other young people to achieve more. Trevor, 11, was recognized for his contributions in cleaning up Cayman and for academic excellence.

Trevor nearly died at age 7 when he contracted bacterial meningitis. He has wasted little time since, serving as captain of his football team, the male representative and a mentor for his year 7 class and is an active member of the Cadet Corps. The cadets spend a significant amount of time picking up trash on Cayman’s beaches and in some of its neighborhoods, Trevor said.

“We know it will make it look better and help the tourist industry,” he said of the work.

Being a Proud of Them recipient, he said, was unexpected.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I never thought I would actually get this far.”

Other award recipients include:

Rasheem Brown, 18, is traveling the world competing in track and field. Most recently, he made the semifinals in the 110 meter hurdles at the International Association of Athletics Foundation Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland on Wednesday. He also won silver and bronze medals at the CARIFTA Games, where he has twice competed in the 100 meter and the 110 meter hurdles.

Mr. Brown is also a member of the Faith Cathedral Deliverance Centre and is an active member of the church’s youth ministry.

He will be attending Milligan College in Tennessee, USA.

Anissa Hoyte, 17, recently graduated with honors from Triple C School and was honored for her academic achievements. A former Clifton Hunter student, she graduated from that school in 2016 with honors and 12 higher level passes. She will attend the University College of the Cayman Islands in the fall with plans to finish her education in the United States.

Ms. Hoyte won third place in 2015 for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s art poster competition, with a design emphasizing conservation and environmental protection. She enjoys doing graphic artwork on the computer and plans to study graphic arts to become an illustrator.

Zolla Jones, 14, became involved in community service after taking part in her school’s Montessori Model U.N. She is a member of her school’s Key Club, the YMCA and YouthFlex. She received the Department of Children and Family Services’ inaugural Child Month Award, which was presented at the annual Circle of Love breakfast in May where she was the keynote speaker.

A top student, Zolla received a majority of A-stars on her most recent 2018 exam report.

Zachary Moore, 16, dedicated himself to swimming after completing his first Flowers Sea Swim at 9. He returned home from this year’s CARIFTA Games with a total of three bronze medals and two silvers after competing in the 1500m, 50m and relay events. Mr. Moore also represented Cayman in the 2016 Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships and the 2017 Union Americana De Natacion competition.

Mr. Moore, who plays piano, saxophone and drums, graduated with honors from Cayman Prep High School in June. He will attend St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida in August. His goal is to swim for a U.S. university.

Deija Myles, 17, has dreams of becoming an actor, or at least helping other actors in their careers. A graduate of Triple C School, she will be attending the University of Roehampton in England this fall, majoring in drama and theater and minoring in marketing. A top student, she is also committed to community service as an assistant teacher in her church’s Praise Factory and Vacation Bible School program, a Meals on Wheels volunteer and a participant in Earth Day cleanups.

She plays the clarinet and flute and is a dancer as well as an actor. She has been awarded gold, silver and bronze awards from the National Children Festival of Arts. She’s been in stage productions of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Hannah’s Confession” and “Grease,” and was in the locally produced film “Sally.”

Keanu Oliver, 19, was the head boy at Clifton Hunter High School during 2016–2017. A top student, he spent his summers in 2016 and 2017 as an intern for the Stay Focused program, where he helped disabled teens learn how to dive. He was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award from the YMCA and the CHHS Principal’s Award. He has been involved in Junior Achievement, Key Club and the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly. In 2017, he was part of the 10-day Global Youth Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. and New York City.

He plans to pursue a career as a physician.

Gabriela Ritch, 17, was recognized for her academic achievements. She recently graduated from Layman E. Scott High School with a 3.9 GPA and received the school’s Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. She was also given the Claudette Upton Keeley Award as the most promising English student of the year. She competed in the science fair, KPMG Brain Bowl, Dart’s Minds Inspired Math Quiz and Junior Achievement.

In addition to academics, Ms. Ritch excels in track and field. She was Champion Girl at Layman and recently represented the Cayman Islands at a Tampa Bay Area Youth Track and Field meet.

Julius Smith, 15, has been head boy at the Lighthouse School for two years and will hold that post again in the coming year. A member of the Cayman Islands Special Olympics, he is also in the youth group and choir at his church, Red Bay Holiness. As a member of the National Drug Council’s Youth Program, he encourages his peers to live a drug-free life.

Recently, Mr. Smith took part in the Toastmasters Club’s Eloquent Speakers Youth Leadership program. He was elected as the sergeant at arms and received an award for best evaluator and for most improved participant. He plans to become a police officer or work in the immigration department.

Janelle Smith, 18, started working with makeup when she was 11. The way it made her look, she said, helped her feel more confident. She enjoys giving others that same feeling. She learned various techniques from internet videos and practiced on family members, eventually broadening her scope and establishing JA Makeup Artistry, her home-based business. She has worked with a number of local and overseas celebrities, including Selita Ebanks, Nicole Whittaker and Alyssa Powell-Johnson. She is currently working with two contestants for the upcoming Miss Cayman Islands pageant.

Ms. Smith plans to return to school this fall, majoring in accounting at the International College of the Cayman Islands. She said she plans to work full time as an accountant while continuing to operate her business on the side.