Secondary school students met some of their favourite national heroes at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, at an event celebrating the winners of the inaugural Wired868 Write Start essay writing competition,
The meeting was facilitated by bmobile and took place at the company's corporate box. In attendance were bmobile endorsees international cricket legend Brian Lara and Olympic gold medallist and national javelin athlete Keshorn Walcott. Both sporting heroes were mentioned by two of the shortlisted winners in their essay, said a media release.
Shara Balkaran of Parvati Girls’ Hindu College, SS Erin Road, Debe, used the platform to highlight that girls love and play cricket as much as boys do.
Amaiyah Joseph of Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain, recalled the triumph of Walcott’s Olympic gold and her encounter with the star athlete as they crossed paths at Piarco airport, the release said.
Both athletes joined the Minister of Education, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly; writer Lisa Allen-Agostini, Wired868 managing director Lasana Liburd, and US-based businessman Sean Powder, who contributed the cash prizes, at a recent celebration for the students.
Balkaran’s fictional piece on Lara won the category 11-15 top prize and a special bmobile prize, and was also the most shared in her category with over 4,200 shares.
“My sister inspired me to write this story – she loved writing, and I wanted to be as good as her. And of course, Brian Lara is one of my cricket inspirations as well. I love him, and I love cricket, so I was very inspired to write this story and share it with everyone,” Balkaran said in the release.
Balkaran plans to continue writing and hopes to have a career in the field ahead of her. She received her prize from the cricket legend himself.
Joseph re-enacted her sighting of gold medallist Keshorn Walcott at the airport, where she could not contain her excitement at meeting and greeting him.
“I briefly met him around 2013. We were on the same flight and I remember telling my mom, ‘Mommy, look the man!’ which I just got to re-enact for him!
"I didn’t get a photo at that time but I wrote the story based on that short meeting with him,” Joseph said in the release.
Joseph, who is passionate about the creative arts, said, “I always read at lunchtime during school and also enjoy writing stories too.”
Many of her stories are based on cartoons she also enjoys watching, and she also dabbles in drawing anime. Her mother, Cassandra, credits Mrs Blanc-Peters of Newtown Girls' RC School, who first drew attention to Joseph’s writing talents.
“When I took a look at the stories, I realised, 'Wow, these are good!'”
She was also impressed that many entrants wrote about national heroes and mentors not traditionally highlighted in the media.
“We need more positive mentors in society and to honour them while they are alive, I hope we see more competitions like this too,” Cassandra added.
Speaking briefly to the students, Lara called on the winners to save their winnings and to educate themselves in other areas such as financial literacy, aside from their schooling, the release said.
Gerard Cooper, general manager, shared services, TSTT, told winners that reading will make them better at writing.
He said, “We are happy to see that writing is alive and well through the young people in TT, given that we do have a rich cultural heritage and world-famous writers from our shores. To be able to express oneself particularly through writing is one of the best personal assets in the world. And the only way to be a good writer is to read. It’s why we actively support other programmes in reading like our Book Buddies programme and other initiatives. We encourage everyone to read more, learn more.
"And we also thank our endorsees Brian and Keshorn, of whom we are always proud, for joining us today and sharing in this love for the writing craft,” he added.
Gadsby-Dolly shared her latest venture, a book, with parents of the winning students and called on students to create, write and explore the critical areas of creativity as a core essence of life.
Liburd recalled how the competition originated.
“Sean Powder, a reader and occasional writer for Wired868, brought this idea to us and also contributed the initial cash winnings.
"We wanted to get topics that adults would be curious to see and read too so that it could appeal to a wider audience. In the end, we were very pleased with the quality of stories that we got. We absolutely are going to have another competition and at the suggestion of one of the judges, Lisa Allen Agostini, we may consider writing workshops for entrants so we can also allow them to learn from professionals in the field and better develop the mechanics of writing.”
Other sponsors of the Wired868 Essay Competition included CinemaOne (IMAX), RBC, Massy Stores and Customised Health Solutions.