12 hidden heroes 

Students, educators, community builders, physician, disability advocate, coaches, recognized for their contributions to community

PACE Foundation has announced 12 champions of the Character Day Bahamas Hidden Heroes 2022 campaign. Recognized for their contributions to their community, there are students, educators, community builders, a physician, disability advocate, coaches, and for the first time, a corporate Hidden Hero was selected.

“It’s always great to discover who the Hidden Heroes are in our communities,” said Sonia Brown, president of the PACE Foundation that runs the Character Day Bahamas program. “Moving out of the pandemic, it was encouraging to see that the predominant character strengths were ‘kindness’ and ‘leadership.’ People have endured incredible hardships since Spring 2020, and for many, it remains the same. So, it’s wonderful when we focus on positivity.”

Social responsibility, creativity and humility were other popular character strengths.

The 2022 Character Day Bahamas champions include Corporate: Leja Burrows; students: Tysha Johnson; Taylen Nicolls; and Dantae Fowler; educators: Philane Sargent and Keffie Ann Ferguson-Duncombe; youth leader: Samantha Ferguson (Exuma); counselor and translator: Lavita Thurston; physician: Dr. Sidney W. Smith (Eleuthera); disability advocate: Kendrick Rolle; community mentor: Calvin E. Greene; and coach and consultant, Nathan J. Burrows (Long Island).

2022 Character Day Bahamas Hidden Hero Finalists

Anatol C. Young, a community helper; Anwar Rolle, Captain Bahamas new environmental hero; Caroline Sawyer, owner, Sundowner’s Restaurant GTC; Charlene Bain, community health director; Hadassah March, community builder, Credit Union branch manager; Keiliah Adderley, education, president of the Heart to Heart Foundation; Linda and Larry Davis, septuagenarian and octogenarian who continue to help animals and people; Philicity Gibson, founder of The Royal Experience; Ramona Wells, outreach coordinator and educator; Samantha Ferguson, youth leader; Sammarko Lightbourne, youth leader, literacy advocate, empathy role model and Sophia Fisher, pharmacist.

The Champions

Leja Burrows: Character strengths – kindness, humility, and perseverance
Leja Burrows is the assistant director of education, Early Childhood Section, Ministry of Education. She is also the chief commissioner of the Bahamas Girl Guides Association. She was recognized as a Hidden Hero by her nominator who for the past 25 years, has been positively transformed under her guidance.

The nominee said Burrows is an educator who believes in the development of her staff, teachers, students, and the educational system of The Bahamas. And that as a result of Burrows’ leadership, there is visible growth in her department, the preschool program, and her employees. Her nominee said Burrows sees the best in everyone around her, is positive and does not give up on people.

Burrows also helped develop the youth in her work with the Girl Guides Association over the past 40-plus years, in various capacities. Presently, she heads the association. Her nominee said Burrows’ long-term service to family, church, work, and the community shows that she demonstrates perseverance, has a compassionate heart, is kind, and is always giving of her time and resources.

Dantae Fowler: Character strengths – leadership, social responsibility and perseverance

Fowler is a University of The Bahamas student. His nominator shared that he is a young man who puts service over self and offers a helping hand. Some of his deeds include a pantry drive that he started at his school for donations to local parishes or homes for the elderly which still operates today. In October 2022 Fowler hosted a young men’s seminar. He was described as someone who works through disappointments and is tenacious, making sure that goals are achieved. And that Fowler is working on bringing back Boys Scouts and Girls Brigade to the Kemp Road community, so that children have a safe space to have fun and connect with others.

Tysha Johnson: Character strengths – leadership, kindness, and social responsibility

Tysha Johnson, 14, a student at Windsor High School, according to her nominator, is a well-rounded young lady who is reliable, courteous, giving, and strong-minded.

Johnson has been recognized for her educational strides, is active in many clubs, community minded, and a dedicated athlete. She is a member of the Fourteen Clubs Golf Academy and in 2022, Tysha placed third in the National Golf Championship.

In 2019, Johnson represented Kingsway Academy Primary in the Primary Student of the Year. She was also nominated for the Ministry of Youth Leadership and Community Service Award. In 2021, Tysha received a four-year scholarship to Windsor School Albany. She has also received the Ministry of Youth Rising Star Award in Education.

Johnson’s civic responsibility touches many charities and community initiatives including Hands for Hunger, the Bahamas Red Cross Society, Center for the Deaf, Bahamas National Trust and her Love and Care. She received the (Princess) Diana Award for social action for humanitarian efforts. Her nominator said Johnson encourages all young people to become an agent of change. Other clubs and activities past and present include: The Bahamas National Youth Choir; Brownies, Girl Guides and Rangers; Sapphire International Girls; Junior Debutante Foundation; Zeta Sorority Auxiliary Youth Affiliate. She has received silver in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition and has won the Regency International Pageant.

Taylen Nicolls: Character strengths – leadership, kindness, and forgiveness

Taylen Nicolls is a sixth-grade student at Eva Hilton Primary School. Nicolls’ nominator describes Nicolls as an “extraordinary, 10-year-old who encourages, shares and loves assisting others. She is a top student, is community minded, and a gold-medal swimmer. Nicolls’ community service is also described as admirable. She worked with the Rotary Club of East Nassau that assisted with an initial donation of 200 reading books for her school. Nicolls is involved with the Junior Achievers and Discovery club which contributes to donating, recycling and coastal cleanup projects.

Her skill in swimming has earned her many trophies and medals. Her determination as a competitive swimmer with Mako Aquatics Club, resulted in her recent success as a national record-holder in The Bahamas National Swimming Championships 2021. Her nominator says she is proud of the young woman Nicolls is becoming, and looking forward to see where life takes her.

Philane Sargent: Character strengths – kindness, love, and creativity

Philane Sargent is a teacher at Albury Sayle Primary in New Providence who received the most nominations. She was recognized among her peers and parents as an amazing teacher and a businesswoman, according to her nominator. Sargent is described as kind, caring, hardworking and humble, and is said to care deeply about people and her students, assisting them where she can – whether it’s out of her pocket, or words of encouragement. Sargent was also noted for her humility, and as a woman who balances her professional, entrepreneurial life and family.

Calvin E. Greene: Character of strengths – optimism, spirituality, and social responsibility

Calvin E. Greene is a community mentor who resides in New Providence. His nominator describes him as always optimistic and positive and that he is genuine which people can instantly sense. He is described as a friendly, hard worker, who is always volunteering.

His nominator said appreciation should be shown to people like Greene who really make a difference without fanfare, without remuneration, and without any expectation of recognition.

Greene is the vice-president of the Boys Scouts of The Bahamas and an active member of The Boys Club of the Bahamas. He taught Sunday school. He is the assistant director of the Marriage Renewal Weekend of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and heads the feeding team of the ministry. He has organized events as wide ranging as the repair of roofs of older parishioners, delivery of food parcels to home-bound people. He also assists with the instruction of adults seeking to join the Roman Catholic faith, and is also on the crime watch team in his area.

Keffie Ann Ferguson-Duncombe: Character strengths – kindness, leadership, and forgiveness

Keffie Ann Ferguson-Duncombe has been an educator for over 30 years. She is a librarian at Thelma Gibson Primary School. She has faced many challenges, including breast cancer, which did not stop her passion for educating the nation’s children. Her nominator said she is indeed a hero, championing the cause of literacy and breast cancer awareness.

During the pandemic, Ferguson-Duncombe helped learners stay engaged with “Story Time,” by dressing as book characters, which she continues to do. She also visited the homes of the less-fortunate students sharing books and treats.

Her nominator said her hidden hero’s character strength is her passion for her profession and the children she interacts with. They say she has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students.

Dr. Sidney W Smith: Character strengths – humility, kindness, and honesty

Dr. Sidney W. Smith is a physician who works in the Rock Sound clinic. For the past 21 years, he has served the communities of Spanish Wells to Bannerman Town in South Eleuthera. His nominator says Smith is a hero who works day and night, is humble, kind, soft-spoken and has the best bedside manners in the world. They said he also makes house calls, oftentimes not charging people who cannot afford it.

His nominator shared that the doctor has been known to assist many people financially, whether it was a single mother who needed food for her children, or assisting a patient who had to travel to New Providence for additional care.

Kendrick Rolle: Character strengths – leadership, bravery, and social intelligence

Kendrick Rolle has been an advocate for persons with disabilities through his career in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and his charities. He is also the chairman of BaCADAS (Bahamas Coalition of Advocates for Disability Awareness and Services) and deputy chairman of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities in The Bahamas.

His nominator said that although Rolle became blind through an accident when he tried to stop a fight during a peace rally, that it had not dampened his spirit. They said Rolle uses his position as a disability affairs officer to champion the cause of the disabled in the country and has secured eyeglasses and white canes to visually impaired people.

And that he works to set an example for all, sending the message, that despite their life circumstances, with courage, hard work and determination, they can do anything they set their mind to. They say he has learned to believe and achieve and is a voice for the disabled and for anyone who is disenfranchised.

Lavita Thurston: Character strengths – leadership, spirituality, and kindness

Lavita Thurston is a court translator, justice of the peace, and an educator at Virtual School Bahamas. She is also an author of “From Abuse to Glory,” that is based on her life experiences. She is presently pursuing an associate degree in criminal justice and law at the University of The Bahamas, with plans of becoming a lawyer. Her nominator shares that her reason for pursuing law is to help the less fortunate who are falsely accused.

Thurston holds various positions within her church; she is on the usher board, the prayer ministry, the mission’s board, the outreach ministry and the youth ministry. She has been known as a strong and benevolent person who performs various charitable acts, such as offering free counseling, food drives, clothes, and school supplies and donations to others.

Thurston formed a non-profit organization called “Grow in God Immensely” (acronym for her daughter Gigi who was senselessly murdered.) It is an organization that assists victims of abuse, people with substance abuse problems, the less fortunate, and people needing counseling. Thurston’s motto is “we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers.”

Nathan J Burrows: Character strengths – creativity, love of learning, and teamwork

Nathan J. Burrows is a creator, coach and consultant in Long Island who aims to encourage others to learn. He operates a business center, vocational school, and a dance business. He has combined consulting and dance, working closely with couples to improve their relationship through dance, as a form of therapy. His nominator said Burrows values education for himself and others and believes that people must take a hands-on, project-based approach to learning. And that he values teamwork, and always said, it doesn’t matter how many people are on a team, as long as everyone is headed in the same direction.

Burrows was diagnosed with a chronic health issue at a young age and does not allow his health to overtake his plans. His nominator said Nathan J. Burrows is a hidden hero, because he wants people to know that he is working towards the future of Bahamians.

Samantha Ferguson: Character strengths – optimism, kindness, and humility

Samantha Ferguson is a youth leader in Exuma. Her nominator attests to her work and service in the community and said she goes above and beyond for the youth of the community. A tutor, youth leader, dance instructor, she also teaches musical instruments, offers drop off and pick up services, and takes youths to church.

Ferguson started a youth pop band, gaining sponsorship to get instruments for children, conducted back to school drives where students received uniforms. She has brought leaders from Florida and New Providence to speak to the youth about college preparedness, offered free after-school tutoring to ensure kids passed the GLAT (Grade Level Assessment Test) and BGCSE (Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Exams); has housed children, and given back to the community. She also offers educational sessions and movie nights for the youth. Once a teen mom, she has used her platform teaching them never to give up.

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