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South Florida Annual JIS Independence Essay Competition Winners

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Two South Florida students scored as winners of the annual Jamaica Independence Essay Competition in Florida.

They were 14 year-old, Diamond Cunningham, a 14 year old student at Pembroke Pines Charter High School and nine year old Deianeira Hoffenden, attending St. Bartholomew Catholic School, both of residents of South Florida communities.

The winners were selected from a group of 25 entries, each detailing their experiences from a wide range of topics relating to the history and culture of Jamaica and its Diaspora. 

The annual Independence Essay competition was organized by the Jamaica Information Service in Miami and was part of the annual festivities celebrating Jamaica’s Independence in Florida. 

Both winners will be awarded each with a plaque from Jamaica’s Consul General, Mrs. Sandra Grant Griffiths and also a monetary gift certificate from the Partners for Youth Foundation, Incorporated, a non-profit association committed to the advancement of youth in the Diaspora through its involvement in programmes in education and the arts.

The annual competition is open to first, second and third generation Jamaican students residing in Florida and arouses interests from a large number of students across Florida State.

Miss Deianeira Hoffenden, now a fifth grade student, creatively and intelligently described the significance of Jamaica’s six national symbols, earning her first place in the age group category nine to twelve year. 

Deianeira enjoys reading, and traveling and learning of other cultures, and this augured well for her entry as a second generation Jamaican.  “I was excited to write the essay because of my recent visit to Jamaica earlier this year and the wonderful experience I had during my visit,” she added.

She is an active volunteer with community social programs such as the Kiwanis Club and enjoyed helping the Christmas in July program packing school supplies for the less-fortunate children.

In her essay, Miss Cunningham penned an endearing story of a known Jamaican individual who had made an outstanding contribution to the local community.  In that case, her grandmother, Grandma Valrie, aptly fit that role as the person who had influenced her life and that of the wider community. 

A ninth grader, Diamond actively participates in youth activities at her church, the Pines Seventh Day Adventist Church, and also at her school serving in the capacity as student leader and former secretary of the Future Educators Association.

Expressing pride in her entry, Diamond spoke of the unconditional love and affection dished out to her and her siblings and the community from her grandmother who ironically had encouraged Diamond to enter the competition.  As for her mentoring and leadership characteristics, Grandma Valrie, a retired teacher was also described as the neighborhood jewel because of an outstanding professional career in the Jamaican education system displaying mother-like qualities and a humble heart.  “I hope one day I will make the same positive impact on Jamaica as she did,” according to Diamond.

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