Wendy Fitzwilliam arrives for the inaugural Guardian in Education Making a Difference schools tour in a specially provided Jaguar.
Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam signs autographs for QRC principal Bill Carter and his students, after the first leg of the Guardian in Education Making a Difference schools tour yesterday.
Photo: Lester Forde
By Lisa Allen-Agostini
Miss Universe 1998, Wendy Fitzwilliam, was the feature speaker at the inaugural Guardian in Education Making a Difference schools tour yesterday afternoon.
Fitzwilliam, now vice president/general manager, business development, Evolving TecKnologies and Enterprise Development Co Ltd, wowed the boys in Royalian blue as QRCs upper classmen crammed into the schools gymnasium to hear her and the other celebrities on the tour, including Olympic medallist Ato Boldon and cyclist Michael Phillips.
Trinity College and the Government Sixth Form School also sent representatives to the function.
The celebrities, who arrived at the school in sleek Jaguars, spoke collectively for about an hour and a half.
The Guardian in Educations Make a Difference campaign is a joint programme between Trinidad Publishing Co, the Ministry of Education, and corporate sponsors RBTT, National Gas Co, BG T&T, Guardian Holdings Ltd and Yara Trinidad Ltd.
The programme is an expansion of the essay programme which was launched in 2000.
This year, students have been asked to submit essays based on the life stories of the celebrities.
We certainly hope that through this re-engineered Guardian in Education programme, students will be inspired to pursue noble dreams and to reshape their values, and be positive influences on their peers, Fitzwilliam said.
Wendy, as she urged the students to call her, reminisced on her year as Miss Universe.
She credited her life experiences, especially her family and certain key individuals, with preparing her for the role.
Unlike Phillips and Boldonand George Bovell III and WI cricket captain Brian Lara, who are also scheduled to talk in the year-long series of school visitsFitzwilliam said she was famous not for a feat, but for being herself.
She said that despite this, her core values as a Trinidadian helped to keep her grounded in what could have been heady circumstances.
Fitzwilliam recalled going to the Oscars and chatting with Tom Cruise, then calling home the next morning to tell her mother.
Her only comment was, Its Sunday morning. You went to church? she said.
Fitzwilliam said that in this age of bling and apparently instant success, it is easy to lose ones way without a solid foundation.
Being able to see through the fluff and remember what is important is also critical, she added.
That is what really enables you to adjust to changing situations, she said.
Boldon lauded Fitzwilliam for doing something useful with her celebrity status, namely founding the paediatric HIV/Aids charity, Hibiscus Foundation.
You have used your celebrity status to further the cause of your people, and that to me is the most important thing you could do in your life, he said.
Boldon won several rounds of applause from the young audience when he spoke about his determination to succeed and go beyond the call.
I dont believe in giving people credit for what they are supposed to do, he said.
My job, up until last year, was as a sprinter for T&T. I was supposed to win medals.
I believe the people who stand out are the people who do something extra. My job is to make sure that the generation that comes after me has it better than me.
Phillips, an old QRC boy himself, is also a successful painter with five exhibitions under his belt.
He said when cycling received no government support and he was out in Germany in 1999 on his own, he had to resort to selling his paintings to raise money for the tripeven though he was representing T&T at the prestigious World Championships.
When I got to Germany I had no accommodation, and no money, he said.
While I was waiting for those paintings to be sold I slept in the Austrian teams bike room. It was no warmer than 15 degrees.
I went from being ranked sixth to being ranked 18th.
I had a choice, become bitter or use it as an opportunity to develop character. I decided that, by my hand, other people would not have to sleep in a bike room to represent T&T.
After their presentations, the celebrity speakers answered questions from a number of students.
The programme moves to Princes Town today, where St Stephens College and Princes Town Senior Comprehensive will be the participating schools