ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Popular soca artiste Tian Winter was positively glowing as he performed his hit ballad Not Afraid and accepted his National Youth Award Saturday – his first ever award, he said, with tangible gratitude.
Winter is, of course, a former Party and Groovy Monarch winner, but the National Youth Award is one that comes not of competition but of observed overall achievement by the nominating general public; and for Winter, one of 36 awardees, this was encouragement in the still early days of a promising musical career.
The night’s other awardees might not all be as famous but as their bios were read during a multimedia presentation at the elegantly laid out Precision Centre, there was no denying that they had earned the right to hop onto the dais and accept their trophies.
They include achievers in education – top common entrance student Akanii Simon, top post primary student Amanda Ross, top CXC students Jai Hao He and Kyle Zreibe, and outstanding tertiary students Alyssa Derrick and Jasmine Williams.
They include achievers in sports; top ranked under 14 regional tennis player D’Jeri Raymond and Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist Tahir Walsh.
They include media standouts Tasheka Lavann, first recipient of the Fergie Derrick scholarship and recent University of the West Indies graduate, and her colleague at the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service (ABS) Elisa Graham, as well as the OBSERVER Media Group which has had the lock on this category for years with youth-centred programming like Junior Cabinet and Our House.
Young Farmer Johnson Southwell Jr also made the cut, as did Sephra Peets of Sunnydale and Xephorae fame, who not only shared the Cultural and Performing Arts spotlight with Winter but also got to sit back and watch two of her dancers entertain and delight the crowd with their agility and professionalism.
Among the awardees, as well, was Tameka Jarvis-George who has three poetry books, a book of fiction Unexpected, and two short films – her own Dinner, based on her poetry and directed by Chris Hodge, and Wadadli Film Studios’ Ugly to which she contributed the words – to her credit.
In visual arts, there was Mark Brown, not for the first time; in entrepreneurship, there was Palette Designs boss Lawson Lewis; and in tourism, there were Pearle Jno-Baptiste and Leslie Warner.
Michael Joseph copped the Community Service Award for his work with the Red Cross, including the Club 25 blood donation programme, and his ascendancy within the international body, including his recent election to the Society’s International Youth Commission in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Young Professional was Darryl Matthew, owner of Total Development Solutions, while the Young Pioneer was owner of the Wadadli Animal Nature Park Dave “Suppie” Joseph.
Guyana-born Shannon Jones, a former champion debater with Holy Trinity School and current employee at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was named Barbuda’s Best.
The new Youth Activism and Phoenix Awards, for standing up and enduring, respectively, went, respectively, to Mehalah Spencer, who readers might remember as the young student who came under fire for protesting a development project at Rendezvous Bay, and burn survivor and businessman Marlon Hunte.
The event wasn’t just an occasion to, as Youth Director Cleon Athill put it, “savour our youth” but to celebrate and encourage the partnerships – of which they could always use more both public and private – that support youthful endeavour.
To wit, corporations like the Best of Books – which supports a number of literacy and literary arts programmes, and Rotaract Haliborange Spelling Bee patron Frank B Armstrong were once again recognised, as were multinationals like Digicel and Courts.
Lifetime service awards went to Rotary, Kenneth Benjamin, Brenda Lee Browne, Colin James, Omari Harrigan, and Gender Affairs and culinary arts stalwart Gwendolyn Tonge, who was treated to a spontaneous standing ovation.
A youth department support award was given to Chefs 2 U Events and a number of government ministers, including Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who put in an appearance.
Karen Mae Hill delivered a riveting address which served not only as an encouragement to the youth but as a reminder to those of influence – parents to administrators to policy makers – to nurture not only academic achievement but total development.
Finally, each of the recipient groups – youth, corporations, adults – had a representative – Lavann, Best of Books, and James, respectively – respond on their behalf.
All indicated that they would continue to do even more and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
To quote James, “Let’s come together, let’s do more for young people, let’s make tonight the beginning of something greater.”