KINGSTON — St. Hugh's Preparatory student, Kathryn Gooden, was a picture of excitement and utter jubilation when she was announced winner of the inaugural Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Heritage Essay Competition, at King's House, on November 8.
The pint-sized, nine-year-old copped the top prize at the awards ceremony, beating out more than 150 rivals.
It was her exceptional essay, detailing her love and admiration for Jamaica's sole heroine, Nanny of the Maroons, which placed her ahead of her competitors.
Kathryn explains to JIS News that she chose Nanny as her favourite National Hero, because she was the only female among seven National Heroes and "she was very valorous."
In her essay, Kathryn wrote that, "if Nanny were still alive, I would want to meet her and commend her for all the things that she had done."
She further notes that a true hero is someone who "stands up, who fights for what you want and is honest and truthful."
Speaking to JIS News following the awards ceremony, Kathryn says she feels accomplished and excited about her victory.
The astute student, who lists reading and "going to school" among her favourite things to do, says she would like to become a paediatrician in the future.
Among her list of prizes were a JIS Trophy, a weekend for four at Franklyn D. Resort, a Sangster's Book Store voucher, an MP4 Player and $10,000 cash. She also received the award for Best Entry in the nine year-old category.
St. Hugh’s also placed second, with 10 year-old Matthew Irons, who was the only male in the top 10. He was awarded $6,000 cash, a digital camera, a flash drive, a Sangster's Book Store voucher and a JIS trophy.
Rounding out the top three was 11 year-old Tajrakae Bryson from Corinaldi Avenue Primary school in St. James, who received a JIS trophy, a flash drive, a printer, a book voucher and $4,000 cash.
Matthew tells JIS News that he is pleased with his accomplishment, noting that he was more than happy to share with Jamaica his admiration for his favourite National Hero, Sir Alexander Bustamante.
In his essay, Matthew chronicled the achievements of Jamaica’s first Prime Minister, noting that he supported many workers’ strikes and protests.
"At one demonstration by workers, he unbuttoned his shirt and told the security forces, who had threatened to shoot the demonstrators, to shoot him instead of the people. Now, that’s a real hero,” wrote Matthew.
Grade Six student, Tajrakae, in her essay, outlined her respect and appreciation for National Hero, Samuel Sharpe, pointing out that “he was an unselfish and fearless warrior."
"Sam Sharpe spent most of his time travelling to different parishes in Jamaica. He educated the slaves about freedom and Christianity," she wrote.
Tajrakae also received the prizes for Best Entry in the 11 year-old category and Best Researched Entry.
Teacher at St. Hugh’s Preparatory School, Maia Pereira, commended both her students, Kathryn and Matthew, for their tremendous efforts. “I am proud of them and proud of the school, because it was certainly a community effort,” she says.
Miss Pereira says the result of the essay competition has provided the students with a "confidence boost” and has given them more confidence in their abilities. "It has been very encouraging and inspirational and has allowed them to realise that their views and opinions matter," she tells JIS News.
Ten students, including the top three awardees, were recognised for their outstanding performance in the competition. They include 10-year-old, Kori-Ann Hermitt of St. Richard’s Primary School, who received the award for the Best Entry in her age group, while Sudandiee Stewart of Marie Cole Primary in St. Elizabeth, copped the prize for the 12 year-old group.
The prize for Best Use of Language went to Ashli Francis of St. John's Preparatory, in St. Ann, while Most Creative Entry went to Jenieve Malcolm. Three students also received the Judges’ Special Award, including Elizabeth Benjamin, St. Andrew Preparatory; Jhonalee Gardner, Inverness Primary and Infant school in St. Ann and Tomoya Palmer, Mile Gully Primary school, in Manchester.
Chief Executive Officer of the JIS, Donna-Marie Rowe, applauded the awardees, informing them that they too can embrace the qualities and character of a hero.
"Children, we want you to know that you too can be heroes wherever you are, at school, in your communities, at church or even at play. We want you to believe in your God-given potential, to be brave, strong, thinkers and shapers of Jamaica's bright future," she said.
The CEO explained that the objective of the competition was to move a step further than simply highlighting the qualities of Jamaica's national heroes, but to help the nation’s children make the connection between the past and present and to apply the lessons learned to their lives.
"We're building national pride, which will cause the Jamaican flag to fly high in their hearts. Our essay competition is a step further in a thrust we started four years ago through the JIS programmes. We not only familiarise our children with our national heritage, we showcase their achievements and encourage them to participate in national life," Mrs. Rowe further informed.
In his address, Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen congratulated the awardees and lauded the JIS for its role as a trailblazer in transmitting the achievements of Jamaicans to young and old and for keeping the country’s heritage and culture alive and relevant.
He said the essay competition was a commendable endeavour, which gave many young Jamaicans a chance to research and to become more aware of the achievements of their ancestors.
"I hope this essay competition has left you fully inspired to learn more about how we came to be such a unique and distinguished people in the Caribbean and the world. And, you will endeavour to learn more about our customs, our origins, and our mores," the Governor General told the students.
The JIS received more than 150 entries for the essay competition, which was open to students at the primary school level between nine and 12 years of age. Entrants were asked to write a 300 to 350-word essay on the topic: 'Who is your favourite National Hero or Heroine? Explain'. The competition is expected to become an annual event.
More than 90 per cent of the entries were sent in by females. A total of 56 entries came from 10 year-olds, followed closely by the 11 year-old group with 54 entries, and the lowest number of entries came from the 12 year-old category.
The JIS received entries from all 14 parishes, with Inverness Primary and Infant School in St. Ann topping the number of entries, followed by Corinaldi Avenue Primary school in St. James. The vast majority of the students wrote about Marcus Garvey, followed by Nanny of the Maroons.
The agency assembled a team of capable markers, drawn from different levels in the education system, from teacher in training to master teacher. They reported that they were very pleased with the quality of the essays, as the children showed good knowledge of the heroes and used the resources well.
Teachers were particularly pleased with the use of grammar. However, they were concerned that a number of the students did not seem to make the link between the heroes and their own lives.
The competition was sponsored by Franklyn D. Resort, Jamaica International Insurance Company, Hotel Four Seasons, Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd., Innovative Corporate Solutions, Royale Computers and Accessories and Sangster's Book Store.
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter