Selecting the primary school student of the year: What judges look for in the person who will top an incredible field

The process to selecting what can arguably be considered the most coveted honor by top sixth grade students – Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year (BPSSY) – which comes with a $7,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s institution of choice, and a laptop, is underway. Schools and parents are in the final days of ensuring student portfolios are the best they can be and submitted by Friday’s deadline. But what exactly do judges look for in selecting that one student who will rise to the top of the field of an incredible list of nominees to be called Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year?

In selecting the ultimate winner, the approximate 14-judge panel making the decision takes an all-encompassing approach to candidates – scrutinizing everything from the child’s academics, to leadership, community involvement from as far back as third grade. The award is not meted out necessarily on what the nominee may have started doing in their sixth-grade year and year of their nomination.

“[Judges] are looking for a child who has been consistent,” said Ricardo P. Deveaux, Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year Foundation (BPSSYF) president and founder. “This child didn’t just start to pick up academically in sixth grade, nor did they just in their final year of primary school, develop or start a program. This was something they would have done for over a period of time – and they are well-versed in it.”

Deveaux said the ultimate winner’s portfolio reflects a child who was engaged in their project/platform from as early as third or fourth grade.

And he said the student that each school is allowed to nominate from the approximate 125 public and private sector schools around the country should be a student that embodies the characteristics the foundation seeks, from as early as the child’s third-grade year.

After their child’s nominations, many parents find themselves scrambling to give their child a project or platform, after receiving their school’s nomination. But ideally, Deveaux said that is not how the process works.

“For us [BPSSYF], what we have a concern with is schools waiting until they get an application to identify a student. What we would like to encourage primary schools to do on an annual basis is have an internal competition in school, looking over what a student has done from grades three, four and five, so that in grade six, that person could begin working on presenting a portfolio. If you identify this child who has been doing this over this three- to three-and-a-half-year period, when the application comes out in October or November [of their final primary school year], the child doesn’t have to be rushing.”

Deveaux said the nominee should be a well-rounded, standout student, and doesn’t necessarily have to be the smartest student with the 4.00 grade point average (GPA).

“It’s about the child being well-rounded, involved in the community – whether Girl Guides, Junior Red Cross, swimming, ballet, sports – and the child does not have to be involved in 100 activities, but some activities, demonstrating that they’re not just book smart.”

The title winner he explained is a national brand ambassador and a spokesperson for students.

BPSSY is a title that has been meted out for 24 years and Deveaux said the foundation has had some very good winners. One that stands out for him is Anna Albury, the 2011 winner, and the first blind student to win.

“Anna was an advocate for students with special needs and now she’s a junior at Louisiana College. She’s still advocating and demonstrating her platform that students who may be challenged with disabilities can live normal lives.”

Albury is studying toward a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary business, history, and missions and ministry.

Deveaux said what he enjoys most about the program is seeing a past primary school student of the year title holder do well. He referenced Vashti Darling, the first title holder (1997), who is now a doctor, and the second winner Andrea Moultrie (1998) who is now an attorney.

“When you can see former winners impacting the community, that is powerful,” said Deveaux.

“I believe that while the student of the year awards program is truly an excellent form of motivation for our students, we look forward to students performing and demonstrating that their actions are in preparation for a successful future rather than successful participation in the awards program.”

Parents grooming their children for the student of the year title, he said, is something they have also seen become “a thing”. And he said in some instances when the child is not selected by their school for nomination, the child and parents are devastated. However, Deveaux believes this should not be a thing that should be devastating to them, because the child’s project or platform is something they would be doing regardless of whether they receive a nomination or not.

The foundation president said over the years, they have also seen situations where parents and school officials get upset when a student may not win or place higher in the ranking.

“The issue is that usually, the nominee is used to being number one out of a field of 20 to 40 students, but now they are in a competition with over 100 students who have similar GPA of 3.75 or higher, involved in about six organizations, participating in church, civic and community organizations, organizing community service projects and leaders in their schools, community and churches.”

Each judge reviews and scores each student; scores are then verified by a certified public accountant and students ranked according to their scores.

Deveaux explained that the judges are the only people to assess the students and determine what separates each nominee. He said the BPSSYF does not have a role in the decision.

Each primary school nominates one student. If every school puts in a nominee, the program has at least 125 primary school students in the running for the title, annually.

Each nominee also has to submit a portfolio (with a maximum of 50 pages), reflecting their work and demonstrating the nominee’s ability and critical thinking.

Deveaux said the portfolios they have seen over the years morphed from what was really the work of the nominee and their parents putting together, detailing all of their achievements, to where he believes they have parents spending thousands of dollars on a portfolio for submission, which he said speaks volumes.

“The judges aren’t looking at how much money you spend on the portfolio, but for this to be the work of the nominee.”

He also shared that they have seen it all with parents even submitting portfolios that are prototypes or three dimensional. In the BPSSYF rules, it states that the dimension should not be larger than 12 inches by 12 inches; should be void of any mechanical nature; and limited to one presentation void of any flash drive or CD.

“These pop ups … all of that is a distraction, and that’s not what a portfolio is – it’s just documentation of your work. The most important thing is your achievements in your work in the portfolio itself.”

The BPSSYF president said they are also not looking to see 100 pictures of a child doing a particular thing in their final primary school year, but rather images of the child engaged in their project over approximately three-and-a-half years, and images of whether the child won an accomplishment for their project.

“But parents want to fill up a portfolio with something their child did in sixth grade, but that does not demonstrate something the child has done over the long haul.”

The 25th primary school student of the year event is being planned for the end of May, beginning of June, according to Deveaux, who said they expect a hybrid ceremony, considering the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year [2020], we had the virtual program, but we had the top five at the awards ceremony so the winner could have their moment. So, more than likely, we will have that again, because the one thing our organization is going to do – is follow the protocols, because we won’t put students and families in harm’s way.”

As they prepare for the 2021 Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year, in tough economic times, Deveaux said the Foundation, in partnership with the Nassau, Bahamas Pan-Hellenic Council, has received $20,000 in funding from January 1 to now as they work toward their $100,000-plus goal to ensure they are able to award top primary school students with scholarship and prizes.

The Foundation usually offers anywhere from $140,000 to $190,000 in scholarship and prizes, annually. In 2020, the Foundation was shy of its normal goal in terms of the amount of money raised, but he said they were proud that every child was able to get something.

“We had 112 in student of the year, and we had 90 students out of the 112 receive scholarship dollars; the other 22 [students] got laptops – so, every child walked away with something,” said Deveaux.

Since 1997, the Foundation has recognized over 2,700 of the best and brightest primary school students in The Bahamas, and awarded over $1.9 million worth of the scholarships and prizes.

“Although we offer one-time scholarship awards to be used for the recipient’s high school education, the awards program is not viewed as a scholarship program, but rather concentrates on the achievement of the nominees in recognition of their work and leadership. The foundation would like to encourage parents and nominees to view the nomination in the competition as a form of recognition rather than concentrating on an awards program placement.”


1997 – Vashti Darling, St. John’s College, New Providence

1998 – Andrea Moultrie, St. John’s College, New Providence

1999 – Tiffany Moncur, Carmichael Primary School (now Sybil Strachan Primary), New Providence

2000 – Sasha Bain, Walter Parker Primary School, Grand Bahama

2001 – Kenny Roberts, Spanish Wells All Age School (now Samuel Guy All Age School), Eleuthera

2002 – Zachary Lyons, Queen’s College, New Providence

2003 – Tanielle Curtis, Sts. Francis & Joseph, New Providence

2004 – Saul Salonga, Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic, Grand Bahama

2005 – Shirdat Jadoo, Maurice Moore Primary School, Grand Bahama

2006 – George Zonicle, Bahamas Academy of SDA, New Providence

2007 – Taran Carey, Tarpum Bay Primary, Eleuthera

2008 – James Boyce, Hope Town Primary, Abaco

2009 – Khes Adderley, Temple Christian School, New Providence

2010 – Jared Fitzgerald, Xavier’s Lower School, New Providence

2011 – Anna Albury, Hope Town Primary, Abaco

2012 – Nadja Simon, Genesis Academy, New Providence

2013 – Lauryn Rolle, St. Thomas More Catholic Primary, New Providence

2014 – Donovan Butler, Xavier’s Lower School, New Providence

2015 – Samaiya Lundy, Sunland Baptist Academy, Grand Bahama

2016 – Lila Nottage, Lyford Cay International School, New Providence

2017 – Hannah Edomwonyi, Clara Evans Primary School, Andros

2018 – Remington Minnis, Eva Hilton Primary (formerly Oakes Field Primary School), New Providence

2019 – Lauren Scriven, St. Francis de Sales Catholic, Abaco

2020 – Hayley Wilson, Summit Academy, New Providence

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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