Lacovia High student wins 4-H competition with cho-cho drink
Tears of joy concluded a three-year journey to victory for Natoya Williams, a grade 10 student at the St Elizabeth-based, Lacovia High School.
Natoya walked away with the coveted $1 million prize, along with the title of 4-H National Female Youth Ambassador (4-H National Girl of The Year), at the Jamaica 4-H Clubs National Achievement Expo held recently at the Denbigh Showground in Clarendon.
The shouts of celebration and cheers coming from Natoya's coaches and other supporters were no match for the joy bursting inside of her, following the announcement.
"I felt really nervous as well as happy. I felt elated and grateful as well for this opportunity that the Jamaica 4-H Clubs has provided for youth like me," she told JIS News.
Natoya won the agriculture competition with her goat-rearing project and her 'Cho-Cho Delight' drink, which she had previously entered in the 'Cold Milk Beverage' segment in grade eight.
At that first attempt, she said the drink was "salted", which cost her the top spot.
Undaunted by the disappointment, and with the support of her coach Mark Salmon, she was able to re-strategise and come up with a prize-winning product.
"I went back to the drawing board because I was determined, because it [Cho-Cho Delight] is a really good product," she said. Natoya opined that the drink has high market potential, because it provides a delicious and nutritious option for consuming cho-cho, which is used locally in soups, stews or steamed vegetable dishes.
She noted that the drink contains substantive nutritional properties that may be beneficial in the fight against diabetes, hypertension and other diseases.
Natoya said that the drink, along with her goat rearing project, are in keeping with her responsibility as a 4-H clubbite to promote the 'Grow Smart, Eat Smart' campaign theme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Her plan now is to advance her entrepreneurial pursuit in support of brand Jamaica.
"So, this [prize money] I'm going to use it to start my own business ... I am going to expand it so I can produce on a large scale and support Jamaica globally," she said.
For his part, Salmon expressed belief that Natoya's positive attitude was a major contributor to her victory.
"First of all, she is very interested in what she is doing. I am happy, I am proud and I am not surprised, because we [coaches] have done the groundwork. We would have prepared her," he said, adding that a balance had to be established quite early in the competition because Natoya is preparing for external exams.
Parish manager, St Elizabeth 4-H Clubs, Keisha Johnson-Palmer, said she is encouraged by the innovative spirit of the young people in the parish.
"I knew that my students were going to come through. I worked with them. I worked tirelessly with them at nights," she noted.
St Elizabeth also copped second place for 'Parish of The Year' and second place for Boy of the Year with Munro College's Rhondre Elliott taking home the honour.
The Jamaica 4-H Clubs is the youth training arm of the agriculture ministry and was created to empower youth in agriculture and related areas by using adaptive technologies while contributing to national development.
The national expo is a culmination of events held at the parish level annually, with the top entrants vying for various titles and awards.