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Queen’s College student pens winning FirstCare Autism Awareness essay

  • Queen's College twelfth-grade student Christa Lyons (right) receives her $300 check from FirstCare Medical Plan President Corinna Neely. Christa penned the winning essay in the recent Autism Awareness Essay Contest. FUSION MEDIA

Published: May 29, 2013

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Christa Lyons, a twelfth grade student at Queen’s College, penned the winning essay in the recent Autism Awareness Essay Contest. She received prizes totaling more than $600.

In her essay, Christa recounted her bonding experience with her cousin Ryan after learning he was diagnosed with autism. She outlined the importance of empathy in making meaningful connections with those who have autism.

“Through understanding comes acceptance of those with autism,” she wrote. “We must not focus on their shortcomings, but rather their talents.”

Christa received a $300 check from FirstCare Medical Plan, a $250 gift certificate from AML Foods, a $100 gift certificate from John Bull and an electronic gift from Custom Computers.

Temple Christian eleventh grade student Lonelle Sweeting, was selected as the runner-up in the senior division.  She wrote, “We are all in this thing together. Autism can be conquered but it will take a team effort.” Lonelle received a $200 check from FirstCare Medical Plan and a $150 gift certificate from AML Foods.

Lyford Cay International School’s Petra-Marie Edwards, an eighth grade student at Lyford Cay International School was awarded the first runner-up prize in the junior division.

Of her relationship with an autistic classmate she wrote, “He was not a misfit or weirdo who could not be part of a school environment, but a truly special friend who needed respect, compassion and acceptance.” Edwards received a $200 check from FirstCare Medical Plan and a $100 gift certificate from AML Foods.

More than 50 students submitted 300-word essays on the topic “Autism in The Bahamas: Building Relationships Through Understanding” in the contest sponsored by FirstCare Medical Plan in association with R.E.A.C.H. Bahamas and The Ministry of Education.

Junior and high school students from across the Bahamas through their essays, recounted experiences with autistic peers and family members and advocated for unified efforts to promote autism awareness from the government, schools, private and public sectors.

“I am particularly happy that we had more than 13 schools involved in the essay competition which means that students from at least thirteen schools gained knowledge about autism,” said Lionel Sands, director of education.

Sands outlined the government’s intent to expand its support of special education with plans to open a center on the eastern end of New Providence designed for special needs students. Garvin Tynes Primary School and Anatol Rodgers High School both located in the west, currently offer programs for students with autism spectrum disorders. “It has to be a community effort rather than just one organization trying to do this massive work,” said Sands. “When we come together, the public and private sector, we can do so much more.”

AML Foods Ltd. donated gift cards with a combined total of $500 to the contest winners. “As a corporate citizen we welcome the opportunity to give back and recognize the importance of autism awareness in the community,” stated Renea Knowles, marketing manager, AML Foods Ltd.

Fifteen students from the family islands submitted essays, including students from Grand Bahama, Acklins and Exuma. Naomi Farrington, a ninth grade student at Eight Mile Rock High School in Grand Bahamas received honorable mention for her essay.

“FirstCare is elated at the overwhelming response received from the students throughout the Bahamas,” stated Corinna Neely, President, FirstCare Medical Plan. “We salute the work of R.E.A.C.H. Bahamas and thank the Ministry of Education and our corporate partners for coming together to ensure that more of our junior and high school students are sensitized to the needs of their autistic peers.”

Due to the positive response, FirstCare Medical Plan, R.E.A.C.H. Bahamas and the Ministry of Education plan to make the essay contest an annual campaign to be held during April, internationally recognized as Autism Awareness Month.

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