As the October 26 deadline for the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Essay competition nears, the agency is receiving overwhelming support from students and sponsors who want to be a part of the debate on Jamaica's heritage in this its 50th year.
The competition is asking students, ages 9-12, at primary and preparatory schools, to write an essay between 400-500 words on the topic, 'Fifty years later…Do we still need National Heroes?'
The main prize is a weekend for four at the children friendly Franklyn D Resort & Spa in St. Ann. There are also other attractive prizes of a net book computer, printers, mp4 players, book vouchers, cash and trophies, among other items.
Chief Executive Officer of the JIS, Donna-Marie Rowe, notes that the topic, while challenging, is geared at engaging the children's interest in national issues.
"This year is our Golden Jubilee and we wanted the students to research and see just how far the nation has come since 1962 and to reflect on the role of a hero," Mrs. Rowe explains.
She is of the view that the youngsters are up to the challenge, having shown their brilliance in past competitions. Mrs. Rowe says that she is happy for the growing number of sponsors who are giving their support to the competition through the many attractive prizes, thus sweetening the labour for the youngsters.
This is the second year in a row that the Franklyn D Resort & Spa has been the main sponsor for the competition, and for Proprietor and Chairman, Frank Rance, the first year's experience was "gratifying."
Mr. Rance has a history of involvement with heritage sites and projects, having served on the Advisory Board of the historic Seville Heritage site in St. Ann as well as the restored the Cardiff Hall Great House which was built in the 1670s.
He says that the Franklyn D Resort & Spa has benefited from the exposure which came from sponsoring the 2011 Essay Competition, that asked children to write on their favourite National Hero. He notes that the participation by the competitors was far beyond what was expected.
Mr. Rance is a proponent of Heritage Tourism, believing it to be the most powerful, sustainable form of tourism for the future of Jamaica. He believes that there is value in students being educated about our heroes, such as Marcus Garvey and about the stunning architecture of historic places such as Spanish Town; the history of Port Royal and the story of Great Houses and Sugar Plantations.
Telecommunications Company LIME, is also happy to be a part of the competition.
"As we celebrate 50 years of Independence with our country and at a time when our rich history and vibrant culture is high on the national agenda, we feel duty-bound to support the JIS competition which aims to engage and 'edutain' our youth on aspects of our heritage," says Public Relations Officer at LIME, Danielle Hopkins.
It is very important for heritage education to be instilled in students at all levels, she says, noting that as the nation builders of the future, "they will be charged with continuing our vibrant legacy and so it is critical that they are made aware of our history, culture, and the achievements of those who went before them."
Sangster's Book Store also has a history of promoting the nation's history through its various publications and activities. Marketing Manager, Sangster's Book Store, Michelle Lutas Naraysingh, says her company supported the competition last year and based on the positive experience, welcomed the opportunity to be on board again.
"Our experience has been a very good one. The quality of the work received and the range of participation has only served to convince us to continue our support," she says of her company's participation.
Both Innovative Corporate Solutions (ICSL) and Royale Computers & Accessories have consistently supported programmes and events that benefit education and the youth, and they too chose to support the JIS competition.
Gillian Murray of ICSL says the company's mandate is to give back to society through educational programmes and initiatives, such as the JIS Heritage Competition, "which provides a means for us as a country to preserve our heritage." Royale Computer's Jack Khemlani also expressed similar sentiments, noting that his company's support came as a result of the educational aspect of the competition.
Other sponsors include W.B. Trophies, Lasco Distributors, The Cake Shoppe and Jamaica National Building Society.
Entries to the competition will be judged on relevance to the topic, originality, accuracy and analysis of the researched data, neatness, presentation, style, and language skills. Students should also include a title page, and a bibliography or list of references of which the JIS must be one. Further details are available on the JIS website.