Spontaneous applause erupted in the ballroom of historic King's House on Wednesday, when 11-year-old Toni-Ann Williams, was announced winner of the Jamaica Information Service's (JIS) 2012 Heritage Essay competition.
The young student of Mount Alvernia Preparatory school in St. James beat 84 other contestants from primary level schools across the island to take top honours in the competition organised by the agency to mark the country’s golden jubilee.
For her winning essay on the topic:‘Fifty years later…Do we still need National Heroes?’ Toni-Ann also took the sectional prizes for Best Entry in the 11-year-old category;Best Researched Entry and Most Creative Entry.
She took home the coveted prizes of a weekend for four at Franklyn D. Resort, St. Ann; a book voucher from Sangster's Book Store; a printer from Royale Computers and Accessories; a gift basket courtesy of Lasco Distributors; $10,000 in cash from JIS; a desktop computer sponsored by LIME; and the winning trophy.
Keynote speaker, Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, congratulated the winner, encouraging her to “keep up the good work, stay ahead and be a hero in your own right, as you build Jamaica…land we love”.
He also congratulated the JIS on involving students in the Jamaica 50 celebrations. “You have focused young minds on their country’s history and heritage, which helps them to reflect on the relevance of that heritage. This is important as it is at the primary or prep school level that we have to start engaging minds, to build a sense of loyalty and patriotism in our children,” he stated.
He pointed out that it is the responsibility of each generation to ensure that children understand and appreciate their history and their heritage, noting that “they are at great risk of becoming disconnected from that knowledge if it is not reinforced by projects as this conducted by the JIS”.
Chief Executive Officer of the JIS, Donna-Marie Rowe, noted that the essays overall demonstrated thoughtfulness, reason, incisiveness, creativity and great debate, and that given the keenness of the competition, selecting the winner was quite a challenge.
She explained that the competition was conceptualised “to engage our children in the thought process towards nation building as together we create a society in which we can ‘live, work raise our families and do business’.
“We also wanted children to turn to the JIS and our website for national information, which would assist in completing assignments related to our history and culture,” the CEO said.
An excited Toni-Ann told JIS News that she was "so happy and enthused that I won, all my hard work paid off. I am just excited”.
"Thank you so much for allowing me to enter this competition. I have learned so much about my heritage since,” she exclaimed.
In her essay, the 11-year- old concluded that 50 years later, Jamaica still needs its heroes “to preserve our cultural legacy, represent our identity and shape our future”.
“As a nation, we must honour them with integrity, sincerity and patriotism for Jamaica land we love. Without our National Heroes we would be like headless chickens, misguided and confused. So, the answer to the question lies within you, because it is obvious, as clear as a pre-school math problem, that our National Heroes are still needed!”
Second place in the competition went to nine-year old Joseph Snowball of Foundation Preparatory School in Clarendon, while 11 year-old student of Inverness Primary and Infant School in St. Ann,Jhonalee Gardner, placed third. They received trophies, gift baskets, and other prizes.