YESTERDAY, Jamaica celebrated yet another National Heroes’ Day — a day when we reflect on the hard work and sacrifices of Sir Alexander Bustamante, Norman Washington Manley, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sam Sharpe, and Nanny of the Maroons. But who else can we look to as ‘heroes’? How many Jamaican have achieved so much and are virtually unrecognised for their work? This week TEENage looks a six Jamaicans, who might already be in spotlight, but need to be highlighted as heroes in their own right.
Here are our Contemporary Heroes:
SPORT: Alphonso Cunningham
HEROES are not always tall and mighty. This is what Alphonso Cunningham proved to us and the world during the 2012 Paralympics Games in London this summer.
Cunningham mainly competes in category F53 discus and javelin events. Though confined to a chair, he has managed to achieve what some of us more able-bodied people only dream of doing.
He has set a regional record of 21.84 metres in the men's 52-53 Javelin Finals earning himself his second gold medal in the Paralympics games, his first being with his world record throw in the F53 Discus in the 2004 Athens Games.
Cunningham has made himself an icon in the world of Paralympics and ultimately a great role model for everyone. He shows us that whatever adversity we are faced with, it can be overcome.
He has served to imprint in the minds of people all over the world that Jamaica, though we may be just 'a dot in the sea', breeds some of the finest athletes ever to roam this planet. Cunningham embodies the spirit of a hero.
SPORT: Darren Mattocks
IT has been a stellar year for 22-year-old Darren Mattocks from Portmore, Jamaica. The six-foot striker has been plying his trade in remarkable fashion on the Major League Soccer (MLS) scene, giving rise to both his and Jamaica's stock.
Mattocks started the year by getting drafted form Akron University second overall in the 2012 MLS draft. Despite missing almost two months after suffering burns from a cooking mishap, he soldiered on, scoring an impressive six goals in his first nine appearances.
His hard work and skill have seen him become a key player for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have benefited immensely from the speed and goal-scoring prowess of their new star striker as they fight to be the first Canadian team to reach the MLS play-offs.
The former Waterhouse striker has even been recently voted by mlssoccer.com as the number one player under 24 years old in the Major League, becoming the first Jamaican to cop this award.
His year culminated with getting a call-up to the national side, playing in two games for the Reggae Boyz.
Mattocks' skilful doggedness and verve mark him as a possible role model for young aspiring footballers here in Jamaica, and thus he is a 2012 TEENsport hero.
FASHION: Jeneil Williams
SHE is a Jamaican beauty that has been captivating runways the world over.
You name it, she has been there. From Kingston to Prague, New York to Brussels, Paris to Rio, and Milan to Moscow, Pulse's supermodel Jeneil Williams is certainly in demand and on the rise.
Her recent works includes editorial features in the September issue of American Elle magazine, Vogue Germany, W Magazine, and Nordstrom's Fall 2012 Portrait of Style Look-Book. She also has an appearance in the fall/winter 2012-2013 issue of Pop magazine photographed by renowned photographer Daniel Sannwald.
Williams has also made major appearances on the catwalk at the recently concluded Paris and New York fashion weeks.
Some of her other works include four-time editorial credits for Italian Vogue, Russian Vogue, and American Vogue; twice in Teen Vogue; British Vogue; French GQ; Harper's Bazaar; BMM; A Magazine; Essence; French Revue des Modes; SHE; twice in The Wall Street Journal; Vibe; German's Fashion and Lifestyle Journal; Deustch magazine among many other high-end fashion publications.
She is a phenomenal Jamaican woman and TEENage celebrates her. This is why she is dubbed this year's TEENfashion hero.
MUSIC: Romain Virgo
ROMAIN Virgo first came on the Jamaican scene when he led Aabuthnott Gallimore High on Television Jamaica's school choir competition All Together Sing to victory with his young voice.
At age 17, he entered Digicel Rising Stars, and Virgo's life took on star quality, as he became the 2007 winner of the popular competition.
Today, the reggae artiste is paving the way for all aspiring singers throughout the country with his smooth lyrics and divine personality.
Through hard work, Virgo has successfully produced two albums, with hits like Can't Sleep, System, Who Feels it Knows It, and I am Rich in Love. Jamaica has watched him grow from a timid TEENager to a well-respected man and artiste in the music industry, who has been praised for his illustrious crooning by many big shots, both locally and abroad.
He has taken his raw talent and humility and expanded the love and respect that many have for Jamaica and our music.
A man with immense talent, Virgo has definitely pleased us here at TEENage and for that he is seen as a 'hero' in the music industry.
WITH determination and strong will, Alia Atkinson created a history not only for herself but for Jamaica as well.
Atkinson displayed supreme strength throughout the qualifiers of the 2012 London Olympics Women's 100-metre breaststroke to place fourth in the finals, despite having the slowest time and having to compete in lane eight.
The 23-year-old professional swimmer was the sole Jamaican representative in swimming at the 2012 Olympics in London and achieved a national record of 1:07.39 seconds in her heats. She also became the first Jamaican to ever win an swimming heat in the Olympic Games.
What is even more profound about this young lady, is that she had made plans to not compete anymore in the Games but changed her mind and decided to give it one last shot in 2012.
Her firm belief in her abilities has gained her much respect, both locally and internationally and for this Jamaica will always be proud that Atkinson is a product of The Rock.
PHILANTHROPY: Kimberley Sherlock
TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD Kimberley 'Kim-Issa' Sherlock has been making her mark on society.
Along with being involved in modelling, media and education — three of her passions — she has extended her reach to establish the Bloom Foundation for Education.
Bloom Foundation, formed in November 2011, is a philanthropic organisation aimed at improving and increasing the educational services and opportunities available to special needs students.
That same month, Sherlock completed her degree in Child Care and Adolescent Development and a minor in Early Childhood Education from the University of Technology, Jamaica.
Having worked with the Jamaica Association for Deaf to help the Danny Williams Primary School for Deaf and the Lister Mair Gilby High School for the Deaf, the Bloom Team hopes to, through fund-raising and donations, to make scholarships available for at least 20 students each academic year.
Bloom also hopes to complete special projects to improve the facilities and opportunities available to the students through the schools.
Kicking off projects with a coin drive, another major venture was undertaking a day of painting for Danny Williams Primary School. On May 23, over 100 volunteers came out to assist in the school's first official paint refresher in over 20 years.
Another event was an art competition, which was held throughout child month, which incorporated both the primary and high schools where students won prizes and trophies for their artistic skills.
Her plans are to not only raise funds, but also awareness of the issues these institutions, the students and their parents are faced with before and during National Disabilities Month in December.
Sherlock may definitely be considered a TEENPhilanthropic Hero.
Keep in touch with the Bloom Foundation for Education and look out for upcoming projects on FaceBook at facebook.com/bloomfoundation4edu or on twitter.com/@BloomFoundation