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6 get Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards scholarships

BY SHANICA BLAIR
Staff reporter
blairs@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 06, 2018

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SIX third-year students from the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) School of Hospitality and Tourism Management on Thursday walked away with full scholarships to complete their programmes courtesy of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards.

The six made it an emotional afternoon for the judging panel and other attendees as they shared riveting stories of the personal challenges they have had to overcome.

The panel — headed by Observer Managing Director Danville Walker, Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards Chair Novia McDonald-Whyte, and Observer Opinion Editor Miguel A Thomas — grilled the applicants vying for the scholarships to complete their fourth and final year of study on their culinary ambitions, juggling family life, and dealing with the loss of loved ones.

Also sitting in on the panel interview were Camara Richards, programme director for Food Service Management at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at UTech, and her colleagues, Scholarship officer Pauline Madourie and Director of Student Financing Garcia Green-McLennon.

The lone male, Orieon Wizzard, from Clarendon, spoke about how he strived to be there for his little sister after they lost both their parents while he was a student at Denbigh High School in the parish.

He shared with the panel the hardships he has had to face, and stressed the need to get as much experience as he can in the food service industry while in school.

“I do a lot of free labour just to get experience,” he shared.

When quizzed about his favourite dish, he divulged that “dumpling and curry chicken is my comfort food because it reminds me of my mother”, to the surprise of the judging panel who seemingly expected to hear something more sophisticated coming from a culinary student.

Onieka Beadle from Spanish Town shared with the panel her plight, being from a single-parent family of six and the first of all her siblings to take on the challenge of pursuing a tertiary education.

Ramona Levy, meanwhile, disclosed that she was faced with choosing between an engineering programme and the culinary arts, and has left many friends and family disappointed because of her decision to choose the latter. She, however, contended that she was and is still happy with her decision because she has a love and passion for it to the point where it does not feel like work.

The other successful candidates, Alexia Wittick, Jada Muschamp and Allia Morris all left a lasting impression on the judges, sharing their individual challenges which included dealing with depression, learning how to deal with and bond with people through food, and coming up with creative ways to raise money for school.

At the conclusion of the four-hour process and the panel's deliberations the sextet were stunned as they were all awarded full scholarships to fund their final year of studies.

The full scholarships form part of the Jamaica Observer's 25th anniversary celebrations and the 20th anniversary of the Table Talk Food Awards.

In previous years some candidates only received bursaries.

Walker shared that he was really impressed with the group. He encouraged them to keep persevering and to be ambassadors in their field and at UTech.

Green-McLennon expressed that she was elated all six received full scholarships.

“What can you say about a company that continues to give back every year? Truly amazing,” she said.

She further stated that the challenges these students face could not have been overcome without the philanthropic efforts of the Jamaica Observer.

Richards shared that her prayers were answered because she wanted all six to get scholarships.

“Their individual stories spoke to me, and I am really happy that my prayers were answered.”

The students expressed gratitude for the scholarships, expressing that it will make a difference in their lives.

Wizzard said the opportunity will now afford him more hours to focus on school and not worry about finances.

A feature of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards scholarship programme is automatic placement as part of the work team for the annual awards extravaganza at Devon House East Lawn, scheduled for May 31, 2018.

As an added incentive to the stipend received for working at the event, students will be able to earn course credits towards the successful completion of their degree programme.

The scholarships were first introduced in 2002 by McDonald-Whyte — a former lecturer in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management — who utilises ticket sales from the annual staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards to assist academically sound but financial needy students in the faculty.

The scholarship programme remains a strong component of the annual Table Talk Food Awards and UTech Jamaica remains a strong partner in its mission.

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