Although she lived only 3.5 miles away in Kemp’s Bay, it took Cassidy Rolle 16 years to visit Black Point, South Andros.
“I’ve lived in Andros all my life and had never explored Black Point until a hiking expedition with the Governor General’s Youth Award took me there. It was a new experience,” said the South Andros High 12th grade student, who received her bronze award from the internationally recognized program on Thursday, May 24.
GGYA creates opportunities for young people to develop skills, get physically active, give service and experience adventure. The latter comes during the two-day, one-night adventurous journey (hiking expedition) where bronze participants walk a minimum of 15 miles.
“The program provided an opportunity for participants to investigate different landscapes during practice and qualifying hikes. During the adventurous journey, they gained a better understanding of where they live,” said Jerome Forbes, the Ministry of Education’s district superintendent for schools in South Andros and Mangrove Cay and GGYA’s district coordinator.
Rolle, a front-runner for valedictorian in her 2018 graduating class, was among 10 students from South Andros to ever receive an award from the world’s leading youth achievement
program, which builds skills in teens and young adults to equip them for life and work.
In the process, participants ages 14 to 24 learn more about and become engaged with their community.
For Rolle, who is off to the University of The Bahamas in the fall to major in secondary education, the program enhanced her leadership skills.
“The group wasn’t as cooperative as I would like, so I had to take the lead to show them what to do and ultimately get the job done,” she said. “Overall the experience was a great one. I look forward to completing my silver and gold award at the University of The Bahamas.”
Established in 2016, the South Andros unit has suffered from attrition. Re-energized in 2017, 30 participants joined the program when it came on stream last September. Ten, just below 10 percent of the 119-student population, completed the journey.
“This first cohort of successful participants worked as a catalyst, sparking interest in the program,” said Cheryl Ingraham, the school’s unit leader. “Based on the stories this first group told their peers, we already have another group of 30 registered. I can see potential for growth here at South Andros High.”
Although 12th grade students made up the bulk of the participants, two 10th grade students and an 11th grade student receiving their bronze awards intend to pursue silver.
“This is exciting to me because it means the program can continue,” said Principal Sheena Duncombe. “We have students in grade eight looking forward to joining the program when they turn 14. The habit has been to start and drop out.”
The award concept is one of individual challenge. Through a program of voluntary activities GGYA encourages personal discovery and growth, self-reliance, perseverance, responsibility to themselves and service to their community. An all-inclusive program, GGYA is for any young person, regardless of their standing.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth from two students who were very immature and playful when they joined the program. Now, they’re both very independent and able to work in a team setting,” Ingraham said.
“We had another student who was very impatient and got agitated easily at the beginning of the program. During his process of self-development I watched him assist another participant who did not wear the proper shoes and got blisters. He bandaged her feet and assisted her, ensuring no one got left behind.”
The strength of the award is its ability to readily partner with other youth organizations and extracurricular activities.
“Young people understand this program isn’t competing with other clubs but rewarding them for their participation in different groups.”