What do Helon Francis, Myron Bruce (The Incredible Myron B) and Candice Andrews-Brumant have in common?
They were all winners this Carnival, having copped the Calypso Monarch, Extempo and Panorama titles, respectively. But they also are alumni of Woodbrook Secondary School, an institution known for churning out students who have made their mark on the country’s cultural landscape.
In tribute to their outstanding achievements, the school last week placed large, vinyl banners of the trio at the front of its compound, on French Street, as a telling reminder of its continued excellence in the cultural arena. The banners, two of which were a collage of the artistes’ past performances, have since been a source of pride not only for the school’s crop of students but its alumni, past teachers and even passers-by.
Principal Shawn Tull told Sunday Newsday the activity was intended to inspire the students.
Tull said he and vice-principal Wendell Pujadas have been trying over the years to instil in their students the fact that many of the alumni have been successful in their adult lives.
“We wanted them to know that there are students who have achieved, who are making a mark in Trinidad and Tobago and maybe the world and they need to have that kind of inspiration for them,” he said. Tull observed that some students were lackadaisical in their approach to school work “and the banners could be a good motivator for them to achieve success.
“Those students (Francis, Bruce and Andrews-Brumant) came through Woodbrook just as they are doing now and they have achieved these great milestones.
“So, it is a motivator for our current student population to achieve and aim for something far and wide because our motto is, Aim High.” Tull said the banners, unveiled after an assembly in the school’s courtyard on Monday, were done by Terri Ali, a parent whose daughter also attended Woodbrook Secondary some years ago. “So, we have tapped into our resource our alumni association and even our past parents.”
The trio also received plaques and addressed the students on their journey to success.
Francis, who won his first Calypso Monarch title with Change, a riveting social commentary which urged citizens to be the change they see, told Sunday Newsday he was pleased with the tribute.
“It was an honour a beautiful feeling to see your school honour you, especially after you move on with your life. It is a feeling not much people get to enjoy so I made sure I enjoyed mine,” he said. Francis said he told the students about the experiences he encountered along the road to success.
“In the short time that I had, I tried to get them to think beyond secondary school because it could have you in a bubble. I let them know there is a whole world out there and that they had the potential to be anything they wanted to be.”
Bruce, who placed fifth in the Calypso Monarch competition with a nation-building offering, The Great Nation, said he also was grateful for the honour.
“I feel great. Words cannot express the feeling of gratitude for the gesture,” he said. “It is good that they took the time to do that because it will act as motivation for the student body and other young people coming through that system as well.. Awarding excellence and good work by the youth was a beautiful gesture.”
The Extempo Monarch also thanked the teachers who supported his development in the artform.
For her part, Andrews-Brumant, captain of Panorama champions bpTT Renegades Steel Orchestra, said she did not fully recognise the significance of her achievement until she saw her banner.
“I realised after how big of a deal it is,” said Andrews-Brumant, who also created history as the first female captain to lead a large conventional band to victory in the Panorama competition.
“I was not making a big deal out of it but it really hit me that day.”
Andrews-Brumant, who mingled with the students in the school’s library after the unveiling, added: “I was able to give them some inspirational talks and it really felt good.”
On his personal thoughts about the victories, Tull said: “I am very proud. I am very pleased, ecstatic that we have had these talented students at Woodbrook Secondary, almost going unnoticed and I think this is why we are trying to bring to the public’s attention that Woodbrook Secondary produces fine and great talent. It is almost unheralded, almost like an unsung hero. But, I am very proud of these young people and we have many more students in the field.”
Some of the school’s distinguished alumni include comedian and media personality Kerron Sealey (Sunny Bling); singer/songwriter Kernal Roberts, soca artiste Shivonne Church (Lil Bits) and calypsonians Amrika Mutroo (2016 Calypso Queen) and Tenille Cooper. Young pannist Denilson Gulston, son of Neal & Massy All Stars frontline player Dane Gulston and Kwesi Austin, of the boy band, Surge, also attended Woodbrook Secondary.
In a collaboration with Trinity College, Maraval, in 1998, which was then referred to as Woodtrin, the school placed first in the junior Panorama competition. Twelve years later, in 2010, the school repeated the feat as an individual orchestra. It also placed third in the competition in 2005 and 2007.
Tull said the school’s past students were able to achieve success despite not having proper facilities to train and hone their craft.