WHITEHOUSE, St James — An emotional Rhodes High School student Rhianna Lewis, a Jamaica junior track athlete, received the inaugural Jill Stewart Sports Scholarship from executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart during the MoBay City Run 2023 Scholarship Presentation at Sandals Montego Bay on Thursday morning.
The hotel mogul launched the sports scholarship in honour of his late wife.
Lewis, who is in 11th grade at the Hanover school, was the recipient of $300,000.
"There will be more announcements coming in my wife's honour but this one was timely and we wanted to get this one out there," Stewart told the Jamaica Observer after the awards ceremony.
"My wife was a participant in the MoBay City Run. From its inception she was a huge supporter. She was a marathon runner and she was the winner of the 10k one year — the fastest female finisher. In her passing, and in her honour, Janet [Silvera] and I came up with an idea to do an initial contribution of $1.5 million over five years to specific sports-related scholarships, something I think my wife would love," he said.
"She was an educator herself, a teacher and she believed in lifelong learning and she believed in health and wellness in sports, and, of course, she believed in her town of Montego Bay. She absolutely loved living here. So those three factors came together and it seemed the perfect way to start honouring her legacy. That's kind of the genesis behind it," Stewart added.
A grateful Lewis thanked the Sandals executive for the scholarship which she said will be a huge help with her studies and her role as an athlete. In April she landed a bronze medal in the 400 metres hurdles when she represented Jamaica at the 2023 Carifta Games at the Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, The Bahamas.
"I want to go to college; this scholarship will be helping me this year with my track and field and also education. I have passed four CXC subjects and I want to become a professional athlete, so this year I want to go out on the track and do very well so that I can help other students when I reach where I want to reach," Lewis told the Observer.
"I do the 400-metre hurdles and the 400 metres. I used to be a high jumper but now I just focus on the track," she added.
MoBay City Run is the brainchild of Montego Bay-based journalist Janet Silvera who recognised, several years ago, that approximately one out of every four students attending tertiary institutions in Montego Bay are unable to cover their fees in any given semester.
During Thursday's ceremony, Silvera said the sports scholarship "is probably one of the best compliments we could give to the late Jill Stewart, owing to her love for sports, her love for running".
"She would have wanted us to do what we are doing now because before she died we were discussing a marathon added as part of MoBay City Run. It was her life dream to have MoBay City Run grow into something that would bring runners from all over the world to converge on Montego Bay," Silvera said.
"For us to be able to allow a young person the opportunity to get the right food, to be able to attend her track meets with this scholarship, we have done well in honour of Jill. And I am hoping that we can do so much more, with Adam Stewart, in honour of Jill," she added.
From the funds raised though this year's event, $3.5 million went to beneficiaries attending the University of Technology, University of the West Indies, Montego Bay Community College, Mount Alvernia High School and one student from Sam Sharpe Teachers' College.
Some of the sponsors for the run included Sandals Resort, Hanover Charities, Courts (Unicomer Jamaica Limited), Rainforest, Union Dental, S Hotel, Tourism Enhancement Fund, Holiday Inn, and Cover Me Up Events.