Forty- eight of the nation’s youth, who have made outstanding contributions in various areas of national life, were presented with the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence during a ceremony held on the lawns of Jamaica House yesterday, Saturday, November 30.

The award recipients, which included new Reggae sensation Mikayla ‘Koffee’ Simpson; entertainer, Jamila Falak James; Reggae Girl, Jody Brown; Olympic Diver, Yona Knight-Wisdom; and popular YouTuber, Rushaine ‘Duttyberry’ Berry were selected from 87 nominees in 12 categories.

The awards were presented in the categories of Academics, Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Innovation in Science and Technology, International Achievement, Journalism, Leadership, Sports and Youth Development and Nation Building.

Three of the Nation Builder Awardees were presented with a $100,000 bursary from Jamaica National Bank, while 12 of the nominees were presented with a $100,000 bursary from Sagicor.

Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, in his address congratulated the awardees and nominees noting that he was very encouraged by their passion, dedication and commitment for excellence.

“All the categories of award are important by themselves, and collectively and are contributing to the development of our society. We believe that it is imperative that we celebrate your positive energy and achievements and what we want to do today is to focus and accentuate the positives because you have been doing great things,” Holness said.

The Prime Minister encouraged the group to continue to work and inspire to be positive role models for their fellow youth in the society.

“I want to highlight the positive achievements of our young people those who have strived for excellence and put them upon on a pedestal, so that the rest of the young people in the country can see and say, ‘I want to aspire for that, that is what I want to be’, so let us create positive role models for our young people,” he said.

Meanwhile, among the ecstatic and proud awardees who expressed gratitude and appreciation for the award, were Miss Universe Jamaica First Runner up Toni-Ann Lalor and Taekwondo athlete, Shauna- Kay Hines.

Lalor, who received the award in the category of Youth Development, is the founder of ‘The Reach Programme’ which aims to empower, uplift and inspire confidence and broaden horizons in the mind of young people.

“I feel great, it’s a great honour. I never imagined this as I was never even aware that there was a Prime Minister Youth Awards, but here I am, an awardee.  It’s truly amazing. Jamaica can continue to look out for great thing from me as I continue to inspire and transform,” she said.

Hines, who received the award in the category of Sport, said she was truly honoured “to get this award especially since I am from a very volatile community of McIntyre Villa in Kingston and to see that I can inspire other persons.”

The athlete, whose right arm is impaired, noted that “it does not matter where you come from or that you have a disability, you can be successful with the right support and mind-set.”

When asked what the award means for the disabled community she said, “We are not to be pitied; we are also important, and we also need inclusion in the society.”

Hines is the first Jamaican para-taekwondo winner at the international Para-taekwondo event where she copped a silver medal. She is currently working on a project called ‘The Paralympic Project – Celebrating the Strength of a Woman’, aimed at securing equipment for para athletes.

Two hundred and seventy individuals have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence since the programme was introduced in 1998.

It is open to people ages 15 to 29, who are living in Jamaica and the Diaspora, who have attained excellence and world-class achievement.

The awards culminated the activities for Youth Month 2019 which was celebrated under the theme: ‘LIT: Lead, Inspire and Transform’.

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