NELISSA Thomas of Queen’s College, Britney Gibson of Aquinas College and Jodi Ritchie of Queen’s College are the respective winners in the senior, junior and primary divisions of this year’s prestigious Laws of Life essay competition.
An awards ceremony was held at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel to honour the winners and finalists in the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s competition. The Foundation, which holds the competition all over the world, awarded the winners and their schools thousands of dollars in scholarships and cash prizes.
Thomas, Gibson and Ritchie each received $1,000 scholarships and prizes ranging from $500 to $800. Nelissa is the elder sister of Akilah Thomas, a Sadie Curtis Primary School student who was the 2013 primary division winner.
According to organisers, there were 800 essay entries this year with 49 New Providence schools and 29 Family Island schools participating, a lower entry than previous years. Queen’s College had the highest number of finalists in the junior division and school also received numerous scholarships to give to deserving students.
Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald congratulated the youngsters for their achievements. “I can tell you truly that the future of The Bahamas is safe and our young people are making us proud in many, many ways,” he said.
“The Foundation has certainly proven that it is a stakeholder of education and is willing to invest in the lives of young people with a view to emphasise the virtues of living a good life. We at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology fully endorse this work and further appreciate all the generosity you have extended to the children and people of The Bahamas and look forward to our continued partnership with you.”
The evening was peppered with commentary from past winners, who relayed how their lives have improved since entering the competition. Parents, teachers and competition judges were in the audience.
Assistant Police Commissioner Hulan Hanna, the guest speaker, said he was pleased to see an organisation highlighting the good work of the nation’s youth.
“As someone mentioned, when you pick up the newspaper on a daily basis, if you turn on the electronic media, you are almost overwhelmed by the amount of negativity that seems to be happening in our fair land. It is depressing, it is frightening and unfortunately, it’s a reality,” he said.
“But, it is against that context, that backdrop that I am so happy and thrilled to have been invited to speak to you young people. Because what you are celebrating this evening is everything that is good about the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
“It takes a lot to become a finalist. There are many today who worked perhaps just as hard as you did, but they were edged out by you. That ought to say something about your effort and your endeavour as young nation builders. I am extremely proud of you; I am extremely impressed by your effort and your hard work.”
Dr John Templeton Jr, the elder son of the late philanthropist, Sir John Templeton, who today heads the Templeton World Charity Foundation, encouraged the students to keep working hard.
“I would like to help launch today a celebration for the hundreds of kids who have made this day so special. As you listen, each person here picked a very special question that Dad took such treasure in for much of his life: the value of time, the success of perseverance, the pleasure of working, the dignity of simplicity, the work of character, the power of kindness, the influence of example, the obligation of duty.”
Mr Fitzgerald remembered Sir John Templeton as a pioneer in both financial investment and philanthropy “who spent his lifetime encouraging open-mindedness.”
“He believed that every one of us has a purpose in life beyond our immediate need and gratification. Sometimes, though, that purpose frequently goes undiscovered. Students, you are well on your way to discovering your purpose,” he said.
During the ceremony, Queen’s College was named the overall winner and received a floating trophy.