Proud of Them: Jorel Bellafonte and Jade Barnard

| 14/01/2019
CNS Local Life

Jorel Bellafonte

(CNS Local Life): Following on from the ceremony recently held for the latest group of Proud of Them recipients, the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands is releasing biographies of the 10 young people who have been recognised. The first two awardees to be profiled are Jorel Bellafonte, honoured for sports, and Jade Barnard, honoured for academics.

For Bellafonte, the ministry said, athleticism is in his blood, noting that from his earliest days as a pupil at Red Bay Primary, his natural speed and agility were evident.

He joined the Mustang Track Club in George Town at age nine. When he was 12 his club competed in the Gibson Relays in Jamaica, and although his team did not medal in the 4x100m, Bellafonte’s performance impressed Michael Clarke, head coach for Calabar High School in Kingston, who “offered him an athletics scholarship at what is widely known as the best athletics high school in the world”, the release said.

When he first enrolled at the elite school he was the slowest in the 130-strong team but through gradual, careful conditioning by his coaches and an “iron-clad determination to live up to the potential his coach had seen in him, he developed a higher level of maturity and discipline”.

The transition from being the best sprinter in Cayman for his age at the time to joining a large team where he was the slowest was frustrating and humbling for Bellafonte, but he became determined to succeed, the release stated, taking part in early-morning training sessions and after school. He eventually switched from the 100m to the 800m, as his coach saw his stride was more that of a middle-distance runner than a sprinter.

Then at age 12, he became the best 800m runner in the Caribbean for his age group. The Bodden Towner was also the first non-Jamaican to win at the ISSA Grace-Kennedy boys and girls high school championship.

At age 16, he captained the Cayman Islands athletics team at the 2011 CARIFTA Games in Jamaica and won a silver medal, the only one of his team that medalled that year.

He then went on to compete for Clemson University, a sporting powerhouse and top 20 university in the US, where he became a two-time first team All-American, one of only three Caymanians to ever do so.

He also holds the national junior and senior records for the 800m and 1500m, respectively, for the Cayman Islands, all achieved by age 21. But then Bellafonte suffered two severe stress fractures to his spine in 2016, injuries which effectively forced the 23-year old to walk away from competition.

Although he was approached to compete for Jamaica all throughout his high school years, he always chose to represent Cayman, “a decision of which he is most proud”, the release said. Due to his success, the ministry added in the release, “it has become common for Caymanian parents to send their children to Jamaica with hopes of them becoming successful at sports like Jorel. He has inspired the next generation to follow their dreams.”

He graduated from Clemson with a bachelor of science degree in economics and has recently finished a stint working for the Government of the Cayman Islands.

CNS Local Life

Jade Barnard

Barnard (14), who hails from West Bay, is a straight ‘A’ student at Cayman Prep and High School where she balances 13 subjects, including two foreign languages. At the end of the 2017/2018 academic year, she received the Principal’s Award for top student in Year 8, best in year for geography, religious education, and Spanish, as well as in maths and English, a notable achievement as it is unusual for students to be strong in both subjects, said a ministry press release. She has also won her school’s junior spelling bee two years in a row and is a creative writer.

Barnard volunteers for Hospice Care on its Flag Day and the Cayman Islands Humane Society and is a member of her school’s Key Club where she also volunteers for various community events. She is a member of the South Sound United Church where she often runs the audio-visual equipment, and also plays the violin and piano and performs on the latter.

She was selected by her school to attend the Education Student Leadership Conference this past year, and has been chosen to participate in the DART Minds Inspired Math Challenge for the past two years.

In 2017 she and her older brother, Luke, started a small-scale recycling business – Convert Cayman – in West Bay at the Shores, and at Highlands, to encourage people to recycle their trash. The siblings put aside a couple of hours every Sunday morning to collect the recycling that their neighbours put out on the curb and take it to the recycling point at the Foster’s Food Fair in West Bay, charging a small fee which is dependent on whether the recyclables come sorted or unsorted into glass, metals, plastics and cardboard.

Her mother, Nancy Barnard, said of her daughter, “Jade wants to do her part to change the world, to make it a better place and solve global problems. I have no doubt that she will make her family, West Bay (she is the third generation of her family to grow up in this gorgeous district) and Cayman very proud one day.”

Read the full biographies here

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Category: Youth

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