There was an unexpected touch of royalty at the inaugural Wired868 Write Start national essay writing prize-giving ceremony yesterday evening at the bmobile suite at the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair.
Parvati Girls’ Hindu College student Shara Balkan won the 11-15 category with a fictional story about how her hero, West Indies cricket legend and double world record-holder Brian Lara, turned up at her school to rescue her from bullies at a primary school cricket trial.
Balkaran won TT$6,000, a six-month bmobile data plan and two 4X gift certificates from CinemaONE. But what really hit the 13-year-old form one student for six was the fact that the person handing over her winnings was none other than the Prince of Port-of-Spain himself.
“I felt very excited and shocked!” Balkaran told Wired868. “I really didn’t expect it. It was quite a joyful moment for me,because he is my hero and it was like my story came to life!”
The event, which observed all Covid-19 protocols, was also attended by Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, patron and businessman Sean Powder and author, poet and competition judge Lisa Allen-Agostini.Also in attendance was another celebrated bmobile brand ambassador and Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott.
San Fernando Central Secondary student Aastha Kumar won the 16-18 category, in which students were asked to ‘describe the ways in which you think the first post-Covid-19 Carnival will be different from its predecessors’.
Kumar’s essay, which listed designer Covid-19 masks and a condensed Carnival parade as part of the likely changes, won an additional prize for ‘Best Researched Essay’.
The other students honoured at yesterday’s event were Malique Auguste of Naparima College, the only boy in the top 20; Ogechi Uche Nweze and Surayya Carrington, both of St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain;and Malika Coutain of San Fernando Central Secondary.
Holy Name Convent (Port of Spain) student Amayiah Joseph and Naparima Girls’ High School student Nishka Basdeo also stopped in to collect their prizes and were surprised to see Walcott among the special guests.
It was a particularly memorable moment for Joseph, whose essay recounted a funny near meeting with the Trinidad and Tobago star javelin-thrower. Joseph’s story was adapted from an actual first-hand experience.
Yesterday, so many years after she had unsuccessfully tried to meet Walcott at the airport, she found herself face-to-face with him because of her entertaining essay, which won the ‘Best Dialogue’ prize.
“I did not expect it at all,” said the 12-year-old form one student. “I was speechless, especially to see him right there—and he was so buff!
“It was amazing. I didn’t think I would see him again and I didn’t expect the signed tee-shirt!”
Dr Gadsby-Dolly spoke to students about the thrill of writing and revealed that she has just published her first book, ‘Nyan… Inside Out’. The St Ann’s East MP distributed copies to parents and guests at the event and subsequently autographed several copies.
Powder promised that the competition will return in 2022 and spoke of his desire to contribute to local education while Allen-Agostini urged students to think of writing as a ‘muscle’ to be strengthened.
Apart from Powder, bmobile and CinemaONE, RBC, Massy Stores and Customised Health Solutions also provided some level of sponsorship for the inaugural competition while Massy Stores catered for the prize-giving. There were also three anonymous donors.
Balkaran did not have to think long and hard about which words moved her the most yesterday, though.
“When I met Brian Lara he told me to keep up my good essay writing,” she said, “and that made me feel proud and motivated to continue doing that.”
In the end, from a pool of over 200 valid entries, a final list of 26 students were rewarded for their efforts.
Complete List of Results
(Group I: Category 16-18)
1st Aastha Kumar (San Fernando Central Secondary)
2nd Ogechi Uche Nweze (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain)
3rd Malique Auguste (Naparima College)
Most Shared: Tsai-Ann Lewis (Arima North Secondary) — 11k shares
Shortlisted writers: (won a Massy Stores gift card)
Tsai-Ann Lewis (Arima North Secondary)
Kyla-Marie Singh (Holy Faith Convent, Couva)
Sade Hinkson (St George’s College)
Kadar Mohammed (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain)
Alicia Dipchan (St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando)
Shirley Prescott (Bishop Anstey High School East)
Malika Coutain (San Fernando Central Secondary)
Additional Prizes: (TT$500 each)
Best analysis: Aastha Kumar (San Fernando Government Secondary)
Best descriptive: Malique Auguste (Naparima College)
Best researched: Malika Coutain (San Fernando Government Secondary)
Best plot twist: Kadar Mohammed (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain)
Honourable mention: Tsai-Ann Lewis (Arima North Secondary)
(Group II: Category 11-15)
1st Shara Balkaran (Parvati Girls’ Hindu College) — Brian Lara
2nd Kassidy Gaulteau (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Earl Lovelace
3rd Nishka Basdeo (Naparima Girls’ High School) — Sunil Narine
Most shared: Shara Balkaran (Parvati Girls’ Hindu College) — 4.2k shares
Shortlisted writers: (won a Massy Stores gift card)
Jalisa Charles (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Destra Garcia
Ranissa Lochan (Bishop Anstey High School East) — Wendy Fitzwilliam
Surayya Carrington (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Shalini Seereeram
Amayiah Joseph (Holy Name Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Keshorn Walcott
Gabriella Mohammed (San Fernando Central Secondary) — Lisa Allen-Agostini
J’Leise Sealey (St Charles High School) —Keshorn Walcott
Kristen Smith (Naparima Girls’ High School) — Machel Montano
Additional prizes: TT$500 each
Best dialogue: Amayiah Joseph (Holy Name Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Keshorn Walcott
Best entertainer story: Lian-Devi Indar (ASJA) — Raymond Ramnarine
Funniest: Shantelle Williams (St Stephen’s College, Princes Town) — Gerard Besson
Most original: Josse Franco (Fatima College) — Kes
Best on national icon: Kassidy Gaulteau (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Earl Lovelace
Best story on artist: Surayya Carrington (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain) — Shalini Seereeram
Best sport story: Nishka Basdeo (Naparima Girls’ High School) — Sunil Narine
Youngest Entrant: Durrell Mitchell (Sacred Heart Boys RC) — born 5 June 2010
Moriscia Jairam (San Fernando West Secondary) — Gary Griffith
Sekaye Campbell (Arima Central Secondary) — Heather Headley
Jael Reyes (St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain) — My mom
Editor’s Note: Students who have not yet collected their prizes are invited to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a view to settling collection arrangements.
Click HERE to read the review of the competition and tips for students by chief judge, Lisa Allen-Agostini.
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