Former national cyclist Michael Phillips could not help but smile as he fielded questions from Barrackpore Secondary Comprehensive school students when he stopped by on Wednesday as part of the Guardian in Educations Making a Difference schools tour.
Photo: Tony Howell
By Lisa Allen-Agostini
Ahilya Persad put up her hand many times before Michael Phillips could get to her with the cordless microphone, busy as he was kept by her peers.
Phillips, a former national cyclist and a painter, was the feature speaker at her school, Barrackpore Secondary Comprehensive, on Wednesday, as part of the Guardian in Educations Making a Difference schools tour.
The project is part of the Guardian in Education essay-writing programme.
Ato Boldon, Olympic multiple-medallist sprinter, Wendy Fitzwilliam, 1998 Miss Universe, George Bovell III, Olympic silver medallist swimmer, and Brian Lara, WI cricket captain, are the other speakers on the tour.
A collaboration between the Trinidad and Sunday Guardian, the Ministry of Education, the celebrities and corporate sponsors, the tour will take the speakers to 86 different schools during this academic year.
Students will be asked to write essays on how the speeches have affected their value systems.
Every year since 2000, the Guardian in Education project has given out thousands of dollars in scholarships and other prizes to students with winning essays.
Persad, who was one of the top 24 winners of the essay-writing contest last year, plans on entering this year with essays on Phillips, Boldon and Fitzwilliam.
All of them are useful, said Persad, 17, a Lower Sixth pupil.
What is your greatest victory in life so far? she asked Phillips, in the question time after his speech.
Phillips speech covered a range of topics, including determination, personal development and building character.
He promised to send tickets to the school for his cycling series, West Indies versus the World, in April.
The cyclist replied that the series was among his proudest achievements, especially in the face of the detractors who told him it couldnt be done.
The series brings cyclists from as far as Australia to T&T for a ten-day meet against regional riders.
In his talk to the 300-odd students from Barrackpore Secondary and Secondary Comprehensive Schools, he emphasised that he strove to balance his many activities, especially since he was married in Septembera comment that drew applause from the young audience.
In your own circumstances, you are going to have to decide what you need to be balanced, he said.
He urged the students to hold on to their artistic or sporting aspirations, even though many people might be discouraging to them.
You hear about starving artists. I look like if I am starving? he asked, jokingly rubbing his abdomen.
One of the best things in life is to find something you love to do and then turn it into a business, he advised, later on.
Javid Boodoo and Mellisa Rampersad-Singh, both 17, of the host schools Lower Sixth, agreed that the speech was inspirational.
He made you know you have to strive for everything, Rampersad-Singh said.