Tuesday 25 February, 2020

Another Barbadian honoured by Queen Elizabeth II

Gabrielle Gay is making waves across the world. (Photo credit: Ansuni Hall)

Gabrielle Gay is making waves across the world. (Photo credit: Ansuni Hall)

Gabrielle Gay has been positively influencing the Barbadian society from a very young age and now, the significant impact of her efforts to uplift and empower children across the island is receiving recognition way beyond Barbadian shores.

Her annual Reading Trophy and Literacy Mentorship program, The Gabrielle Gay Trophy for Excellence in Reading, will be able to positively transform even more lives, now that Gay has been lauded internationally through The Queen’s Young Leader Award. The Queen’s Young Leader Award celebrates exceptional young persons from across the Commonwealth from 18 to 29-years-old, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. 

As a Highly Commended Runner-Up, she will receive a unique package of training, resources, mentoring and networking, from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll and the acclaimed University of Cambridge, as she aims to make a greater impact on the Barbadian society, the Caribbean and the world. The television and event host, who is also a second-year law student, told Loop News how she reacted to the news: 

"I was absolutely stunned and ecstatic! Firstly I want to congratulate Ronelle King 2018 Winner, and fellow Highly Commended Runner-Ups: Nikola Simpson and Justin Rice! I also wish to thank 2017 winner Jamila Sealy for all of her warm support and encouragement. 

"I cried upon reception of the email and confirmation. It truly is a personal triumph for me and by extension, a triumph for literacy here in Barbados and the Americas. The Queen Young Leaders Award is one of the most prestigious awards for youth service in existence, so to be selected as a Highly Commended Runner-Up gives me astronomical joy. I also want to wish all winners and fellow runner-ups a warm and hearty Congratulations as well!"

68 private and public primary schools across Barbados are involved in The Gabrielle Gay Trophy for Excellence in Reading initiative, which rewards high achievers in literacy, as well as mentors remedial readers. Gay, who in addition to her philanthropy is a social media Influencer, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur, explained how she came to start the programme almost 14 years ago.

"This project commenced when I was just 13 years old, as I was a voracious reader from the age of five! I started the programme as I realized that many children saw reading as a menial and uninteresting task. Sitting on my bed one night with my mother, I created the initiative and started in five schools with my allowance.

"Since then, with the support of my parents and corporate Barbados, the programme has grown exponentially," she said while emphasising corporate sponsors which have made the project a success.

While reading is the primary focus of the initiative, it continues to go beyond this, building the self-esteem of children and helping them to realise that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to:

"The impact has been astronomical! The trophy programme not only rewards academic excellence but also fantastic moral fibre. Therefore students are chosen for the highest and most improved performance in Reading and English Language subjects. Additionally, they are selected for various moral merits by their teachers: they cannot be bullies to other children, must wear the uniform well, must be punctual, must not litter, etc. 

"Teachers and parents alike have reported that children who are already organically interested in reading were doubly motivated to do so. Children who were not interested in reading became involved so as to win the prize. It also dramatically improved the behaviour of students as they became even more respectful of students, teachers and property. Moreover, in some of the at-risk primary schools, it is the only prize available for reward."

While many lives are already being positively transformed through this programme, Gay aims to help empower more children in Barbados, the Caribbean and across the world, as she also focuses on individually growth:

"My goals are to perpetually champion the cause of literacy and education for years to come by the Gabrielle Gay Trophy for Excellence in Reading and Mentorship programme here in Barbados, regionally and across the world! 

"Secondly, to continue to imperatively be a better person every day. Constant growth is mandatory, not just in one's professional life, but also personally to fully self-actualise and make my community, country and the world a better place for our current and upcoming generations. Thirdly, to inspire other youth and adults as well to voraciously read, pursue their education and follow their dreams. Nothing is impossible with discipline and a pure heart!

And she offered this advice to others who are interested in making an impact:

"Stay the Course! Philanthropy or any worthy pursuit in life is not easy. You must be committed to stay the course and see it through regardless of the inevitable difficulties and discouragements that will come along the way. 

"Also, do not conform! Many young bright spirits have been largely conditioned to feel the need to shrink, to make others comfortable with a limited version of your light. Discard this. You only have one life, make it count and maximise all of your potential! The people who are supposed to be in your life will rise to meet your energy and support you in your goals."

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