On May 9, the Ministry of Education hosted the fifth annual MOE Youth Innovation Challenge competition at the Marion Jones Sports Complex, where St. John’s College High School students Adrian Marshalleck, Junway Lin, Ganriel Hope, Keenan Hyde, and Hugo Lin presented their “C.O.P.E” project to a panel of 7 judges, 2 representatives from Price Waterhouse Cooper and the international non-profit organization Peacework, and other distinguished guests.
The SJC students’ innovative idea “Community Online Peer Education” offered a two- dimensional solution to improve literacy and financial literacy among young Belizeans. The first part of the project would be to launch a Facebook page where young people can meet to share ideas, interests, and conversation about topics that affect them.
The second part would be a simulation game that would imitate Belize’s economy, laws, and business modules. Through this virtual reality, participants would learn the nuances of various real life situations such as insurance, investments, taxes, credit, and even natural disasters.
To outline how the Facebook page and app would operate, the students distributed pamphlets to all the judges and others sitting in the front row seats at the competition.
At the competition, SJC’s presentation unfolded as the microphone was smoothly passed from one student to the next. In 7 minutes and 17 seconds the boys covered the inspiration for their idea, their logic in using the sometimes controversial social media venue, how the Facebook page would operate on a daily and weekly basis, their plans for growing their project, and finally, a closing by Adrian Marshalleck, which summarized the group’s entire incentive and strategy for improving literacy and financial literacy in Belize.
While it had appeared that the judges were impressed with SJC’s business-like presentation, by the end of the day the boys were disappointed to learn that they did not place for first, second, or third in the competition.
Though conflicted by the results, the young men were glad to be awarded a $1,000 scholarship that they would be able to award to a deserving student at their school. The Ministry of Education awarded an identical scholarship to all the participating schools that did not place in the competition.
By lunch time the following day, the five students will have learned a valuable lesson in hard work and failure. On May 10, SJC’s principal Ms. Yolanda Gongora received a call from the Ministry of Education requesting a meeting with the students on the same day. Both elated and confused by the Ministry’s call-back, the students soon found out why, after losing at the competition, they were being awarded $200 each, a laptop for their school, an additional $1,000 scholarship, and a chance to speak about their project on a local talk show.
Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer at the ministry explained to the students that the representatives of Price Waterhouse Cooper and the NGO Peacework were impressed with SJC’s presentation and idea. The international sponsors of the yearly competition asked that the students from “the school with all the boys” be given a separate monetary prize.
Feeling shocked but validated by the unexpected turn of events, the five students gladly accepted the gifts handed to them by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Youth, Sports, and Culture, the Hon. Patrick Faber.
Feeling confused at how they lost, but still ending up feeling a little like winners, the students were reminded that the expression is not that “hard work pays off immediately.” Rather it is that “hard work pays off.”
Add that to a quick lesson about the importance of being able to accept failure and seeing it as an opportunity to improve one’s skills, rather than the lack of them, the five SJC students learned a valuable tip on how to cope with disappointments.