Jerlea R.L. Adderley is the 26th Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year. The Sts. Francis & Joseph Catholic Primary School sixth-grade student with a 3.95 grade point average (GPA) was awarded the coveted Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year Foundation (BPSSYF) title and a $7,000 scholarship, over the weekend.
The pre-teen, who has consistently maintained principal’s list status, is described as self-driven and focused. She is not only smart, but has a heart for others. Jerlea has baked cupcakes and donated the funds raised to people in need through her Cupcakes of Love Foundation, and she makes time to tutor tots.
This year’s winner has quite a story, having started her education at Sts. Francis & Joseph School in her own words as a “shy, pacifier-sucking three-year-old in pre-kindergarten”, before her mother, Leandra Kelly, got what Jerlea termed the “opportunity of a lifetime” in 2015, to become the principal at St. Francis de Sales Catholic School. They relocated to Abaco.
The primary school student of the year shared a love of baking with her uncle Rashad “Uncle Sharky” Frazier, who purchased Jerlea’s first cupcake pans and allowed her to burn her first batch. Adderley’s uncle died in 2016, but she decided to honor his memory by continuing to bake. Through Cupcakes of Love, she sold her baked goods and decided to use the money earned to assist people in need in her community. She raised over $1,000 from her initial set of baked goods in her uncle’s memory. She donated the funds to a member of her church in Abaco who was battling breast cancer and needed assistance with medical bills.
“It was a joy to see the smile on her husband’s face when my mom told him of my project and the amount that was raised,” she wrote in in her portfolio to the BPSSYF. “I know that my Uncle Sharky would have been so proud of me. It was the best feeling ever!”
Jerlea was enrolled at St. Francis de Sales Catholic School when the devastating Hurricane Dorian ravaged Abaco in September 2019. She returned to New Providence with her mom and was re-enrolled at Sts. Francis & Joseph School as a fourth-grade student.
The resident of Bain Town, on her application form to the BPSSYF, wrote that despite being raised in a community where she said gangs and guns are very much present, that where she lives and is raised does not determine who she is destined to be. Instead, she said, it pushes her.
“I believe that it’s not where you start, but it’s how you finish,” she wrote.
She said should she be selected primary school student of the year that her goal is to put rumors to rest that nothing good comes from “over the hill”.
“To be recognized in this way, on a national stage, would certainly highlight my community, my achievements and my accomplishments,” she wrote. “Most importantly, it would encourage my peers, family members, and other children in my community that with hard work, dedication, determination, and faith in God, that all things are possible. In other words, they could see themselves in me and believe that the possibilities are endless.”
Jerlea’s win came during a year when only for the third time in the history of the program, that BPSSYF awarded each of the 102 nominees a $1,000 scholarship; all students walked away with “something” according to BPSSYF president and founder Ricardo P. Deveaux. The students shared $205,000 in scholarship money which Deveaux said was only able to happen because corporate Bahamas stepped up and donated.
“They [corporate Bahamas] were willing to recognize students who worked hard in this pandemic,” Deveaux told The Nassau Guardian.
Jaishon Pickstock, a sixth-grade student at Bishop Michael Eldon Primary, Grand Bahama, is the first runner-up. He received $6,500 in scholarship money.
Two students earned $6,000 scholarships; another two earned $5,000 in scholarship. Seven students received $3,500 each; 11 students, $3,000 each and five students received $2,500 in scholarship money. Sixteen students received $2,000 scholarships; 19 students got $1,500 each and 38 students each received $1,000. In addition, the top 16 students received a laptop, while four students received a tablet.
Each child received a trophy; the top 10 students each received a $100 voucher for school shoes from The Shoe Village; top 30 students each received a $100 school supplies voucher from Scotiabank; and Jerlea also received a $100 uniform voucher from Carey’s Fabric and Uniform Store.
The in-person award ceremony took place on Saturday, June 11 at the Church of God Auditorium, Joe Farrington Road.
Prior to the ceremony, the BPSSYF president had described this year’s cohort of nominees as “resilient” and that the nominees were children doing extraordinary things. He said during the pandemic, many of the students were unable to participate in their regular programs, and created opportunities to serve. He also noted that this year’s cohort would have been third-grade students at the onset of the pandemic and managed to thrive even in totally virtual environments for their fourth and fifth-grade years.
This year’s cohort of nominees comprised 71 females and 31 males.
New Providence has 50 nominees; Grand Bahama and the Family Islands have 52 with 14 from Grand Bahama, 11 each from Abaco and Eleuthera, eight from Andros, two each from Long Island and Cat Island, and one each from the Berry Islands, Bimini, Exuma and Inagua.
Of the nominees, 64 are in the public school sector with 38 in the private school sector.
Out of the 102 nominees, 54 have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 and above; and 77 out of the 102 have a GPA of 3.0 and above.
The prestigious competition recognizes talented sixth-grade students around The Bahamas for their high scholastic and extracurricular achievements. Each school is allowed to nominate one student.
The ultimate winner is expected to be a well-rounded, standout student, and doesn’t necessarily have to be the smartest student with a 4.00 GPA.
Judging criteria for nominees include contribution to school life, academic achievement, extracurricular achievement, community involvement, and overall presentation of their submitted portfolio.
“Academic achievement alone does not guarantee placement in the awards program,” said Deveaux.
In selecting the ultimate winner, the judging panel making the decision takes an all-encompassing approach to candidates – scrutinizing everything from the child’s academics, to leadership and community involvement from as far back as third grade. The award is not meted out necessarily on what the nominee might have started doing in their sixth-grade year and year of their nomination.
Deveaux previously told The Nassau Guardian that the judges are looking for a child who has been consistent, and who has been doing a service over time, and not just something they decided to do their last year in primary school or to receive a nomination. The ultimate winner’s portfolio reflects a child who was engaged in their project/platform from as early as third or fourth grade.
The awards program was established in 1997. Since its inception, the Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year Foundation has presented approximately $2 million in scholarship and prizes, and recognized over 2,800 of the best and brightest primary school students.