21 Bahamian student-athletes awarded scholarships
For the past nine years Dwayne Jennings has been assisting Bahamian student-athletes with securing scholarships to attend colleges and universities throughout the United States and the Caribbean. This year, some 21 Bahamian student-athletes were awarded scholarships with the help of Jennings and his program Search Bahamas.
These student-athletes will attend Darton College, Colby College, Southwestern Christian College, Odessa College, Essex County Community College, Liberty University, Southeastern Louisiana University and American International College. Scholarships were awarded in the sporting disciplines of baseball, softball, cross-country and track and field. All recipients are eligible to compete for their respective schools this season.
“We have helped to place kids from all over the country in colleges and universities, but the core of the student-athletes have been from Nassau and Freeport,”said Jennings.”This year we tried to extend the program by going into some of the Family Islands like Eluethera, Long Island and Abaco. There’s a great load of talent on these islands, and these student-athletes just need to be assisted. So from this point forward, that is going to be one of the main focus of the program this year. We try to find new talent every year. Kids who are talented and gifted on both the athletic and academic fronts. We want to place them in institutions where they can further their education and compete.”
Jennings is the head coach of the Golden Eagles Track Club, which is based in Freeport, Grand Bahama. He is a Level II IAAF Coach, who also provides Scholastic Assessment Test(SAT)classes.
The Search Bahamas program has been around from 2002 and has assisted more than 300 student-athletes. Some of these student-athletes includes Olympians Donald Thomas, Andrae Williams, Michael Mathieu, Sasha Rolle, Shekeitha Henfield, Demetrius Pinder, LaToy Williams, Larikah Russell, and Ricardo Rolle.
This year’s recipients, who will be attending Darton College are Kingsley Cajuste, Bianca Ferguson, Tarah Evans, Rikeisha Miller and Marcus Holbert. Four persons were awarded scholarships to attend Colby College, Mikarla Swann, Gabriell McIntosh, Gortia Ferguson and Shuntae Miller.
Jeremy Wilchcombe, Ashley Smith and Ramon Neely enrolled in Southwestern Christian College this semester while Rinica Russell will attend Odessa College. Track and field athlete Alfred Higgs is now a member of the Iowa Central College track and field program and Sidell Ingraham and Tess Mullings will compete for Liberty University and Southeastern Louisiana University, respectively. The sole Bahamian being awarded a scholarship to attend American International College, through the program, was Krishanda Campbell-Brown. Other recipients attending Essex Country Community College are Alonzo Russell, Glenwood Baleu, Katherian Smith and Tashana Burnside.
According to Jennings, The Bahamas is filled with talented student-athletes who are sometimes ill advised at the high school level. This, said Jennings, creates a problem when trying to enroll in colleges and universities in the United States.
He said: ”Yes, there are a lot of athletes who are academically sound, but you just have to search. Sometimes, when you are assisting an athlete, you will find that one of the problems with them is the Clearing House. Athletes don’t meet the requirements sometimes. They have the five subjects, but these five subjects are sometimes in the wrong areas. So what needs to happen is, we work closely with the Guidance Counsellors so they can help the student-athlete select courses that will clear the Clearing House. You find that some of the student-athletes they have studied accounts or typing, these are courses the Clearing House does not use. With our program, we want to try and catch them at grade eight or nine, when they are just about to choose an elective for grade 10. We try to steer them into an elective that can be used. The five electives and Grade Point Average(GPA)is based on which school you are trying to attend.
“Most of the scholarships that are awarded start from 50 percent or better. Which means the school is paying for most of the cost. What we do is work with whatever credentials that you(the student-athlete)brings us. How talented you are, along with your grades are looked at closely so we can place you into the best school that will give you the best price and results. The average school fee ranges from$16,000 to$35,000. If parents use the Search Bahamas program they can save up to 30,000 a year.”
In the past student-athletes have attended colleges and universities like South Plains, Dickenson State and Lindenwood University. These schools compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics(NAIA)division. Jennings said if the student-athletes are interested in attending NAIA universities or colleges, the requirements are, you must graduate in the top of your class with a 2.00 GPA or, optional, an 850 in the SAT’s. Junior colleges require that you finish high school and have a high school diploma. With regards to the National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) Clearing House, a high school transcript and GPA won’t be used to show that you have met the criteria of the 2.0 score. The NCAA uses an accumulative which is derived from adding the BGCSE scores.
Jennings is available to answer all questions from interested student-athletes. He will be at the local T-Bird Flyers meet, taking place today at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium.