Believe in yourself and lead with your talent. That was the message former Barbados Consul General in Toronto, Kay McConney, left with the debutantes and escorts at the Young Achievers of Halton’s (YAH) sixth annual graduation last Sunday in Oakville.
McConney won silver medals in the 100-metre hurdles at the 1982 Central American and Caribbean junior championships and the 1983 Caribbean Games and became one of the youngest students at the time – 16 years old – to enroll in Eastern Michigan University.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Trade and an MBA in International Business and represented her country with distinction for seven years as the top diplomat in this city, as an international trade negotiator at the World Trade Organization and senior United Nations representative in Geneva, Switzerland.
McConney shared with the young people the important attributes that helped her achieve academic and athletic success.
“When you have a dream of what you want to do with your life, let no one diminish it and tell you that it is not for you,” she said. “Rest assured that if you do not tell the world who you are, the world will tell you who they think you are and, whether it’s the media, your friends, your teachers, your neighbours or others who have not gotten to know the best of you, don’t let anyone but yourself define you. The next time someone tells you to believe in yourself, I want you to frame that in your mind in a positive attitude and take that as a call to action.”
McConney, who recently founded The Executive Minds Inc., reminded the youth that they should always seek to lead with their talent when they step out to face the world.
“Too often we step into opportunity with notions of who we are that create barriers to both ourselves and others,” she said. “You have no control over how others will choose to perceive you. But you have total control of how you show up in this world, and how you show up matters.
“How you dress, how you present yourself, what you say and how you say it or, more importantly, how you communicate your values to others are critical. The real achievement is not in whether these young people will be outstanding public speakers, but it is in the confidence that they will gain by connecting thought to speech in a manner that conveys value to the world outside themselves.”
Abbey Park High School graduate Colette Henry and Iroquois Ridge High School Grade Nine student Ryan Silas were crowned this year’s debutante and escort.
An aspiring author, Henry enters the University of Waterloo in September to pursue English studies.
“I learned a lot from the workshops and the overall program,” said Henry. “It helped me develop as a person and become more confident.”
Silas, who is passionate about science and space, was happy he took up YAH president Evelyn McIntosh’s challenge to participate in the uplifting program.
“She urged me when she visited my church a few months ago and my dad told me to go for it,” said Silas whose twin brother Neil was also a participant. “Though I did not know what to expect, I did not feel intimidated.”
Abbey Park High School Grade Nine student Matthew Henry, who won the Most Improved Escort award, 16-year-old St. Joseph Secondary School and defending champion Emanuel Johnson and Kerwyn Telemaque, who attends All Saints Catholic School in Whitby, completed the roster of escorts.
The other debutante contestants were 2007 winner Yanique Brown, White Oaks Secondary School Grade Nine student Brittany Estwick, E.C. Drury Grade 11 student Tara Galloway, St. Ignatius of Loyola High School Grade 11 student Tiffany Lewis and 15-year-old Theresa Matthews who attends Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School.
The debutantes and escorts were accompanied by little ladies Ruth Jones, Nneka Lemon, Racquel Pate, Zoe Shoultz, Shanice Telemaque, Celine Mugambi and little gents, Audley Wilson, Ifeoluwa Gbenga-Alade, Adonai Jones and brothers J’Rhon and J’Lenn James.