More than two dozen student-athletes are on their way to college this year courtesy of partial scholarships attained through The Bahamas’ Parents Association of Track and Field Athletes, and all of them have been assisted in their academic and athletic pursuits by the Ministry of Education.
For the past five years, the ministry has come on board in aid of student-athletes to the tune of $3,000 per year per athlete. The grant covers their freshman and sophomore years in college, and for the most part, goes toward tuition.
In total, the ministry has dispersed about $120,000 per year in aid of the student-athletes.
President of the parents’ association Harrison Petty said as a result, the burden has become much easier to bear for parents.
“With the partial scholarships, the Ministry of Education picked up some of that shortfall when they created something special called the ‘Track and Field Student-Athlete Grant,’” said Petty. “The funds would assist in paying tuition. The ministry has seen the success of the program in the past five years and has made some decisions in relation to how they are going to handle the grants going forward.
“Track and field made an approach to the ministry as to how to get these grants available to track athletes, and they were made available to them.
“Between the partial scholarships and the grants, that took care of most of the athletes’ school fees which made it very easy for parents to send their children off to universities.”
Through a foothold in the American collegiate system, and through various efforts online and in person, the parents association has obtained scholarships for hundreds of Bahamian athletes over the years. A number of those athletes has gone on to graduate from major National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I schools.
“It’s very easy for us. We have coaches in various places in the U.S. who are a part of our network who open the doors for us,” said Petty. “We also attend a number of conference meets, and we search on the internet as well. We market these kids to the various schools in the United States.
“Every year, athletes graduate, so schools are in constant need of new athletes. We have so many athletes who are looking for opportunities, so we try to make those opportunities available to them.
“A lot of athletes who came through our program became Olympians and we have a very high graduation rate. The most important thing is that they get an education, get a career, and become contributing citizens of our country.”
Jurelle Mullings, coordinator of student-athlete resources and support at the Ministry of Education, said once the athletes are identified, it’s just a matter of processing their applications and getting them ready for college.
“We process about 20 per year depending on all who graduated out of the system,” she said. “I had the opportunity to meet parents and recipients of this award, and they are most grateful and most appreciative and want to go out there and do well because of it. Once they are identified as recipients of partial scholarships, all they have to do is get a code from the parents association and then go online and complete the application process – present acceptance and reference letters and just apply online. It’s a simple process.”
Mullings said that about 80-90 percent of the student-athletes who start off at the junior college level move on to major NCAA Division I schools in their junior years. Her duties entail handling the administrative aspect of processing the Student-Athlete Track and Field Grants. For more information, interested persons can visit the website www.scholarshipsbahamas.com, contact the Scholarship & Educational Loan Division of the ministry at telephone number (242) 502-9025, visit the program’s Facebook page by searching ‘Scholarships Bahamas’ or by sending an e-mail to the address [email protected]
Petty said that parents should not get discouraged if their children don’t meet the requirements to enter NCAA Division I schools in their freshman years. He said that in many instances, a junior college or a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school is the route to take.
“Those student-athlete who go to junior colleges would become eligible to enter any NCAA university after their two years of eligibility at a junior college or NAIA school,” said Petty. “We’re just encouraging Bahamian students to get on board and get assistance while it’s there. In order to move from one spectrum of any society to another, you have to improve your education, and that’s what we’re all about,” he added.
Vice President of The Bahamas’ Parents Association of Track and Field Athletes Peter Pratt even took it a step further, stating that a number of Bahamian student-athletes who choose the junior college route go on to become elite Bahamian athletes, representing their country at a number of international meets.
“When you look at the guys who went to Dickinson State in particular, you would see that a number of them went on to represent The Bahamas at the world championships and/or the Olympics, so the opportunity is there for the athletes to improve themselves. We’re just encouraging parents to take advantage of this opportunity, and secure the future of their kids and the future of The Bahamas.”
This year alone, a total of 30 student-athletes on partial scholarships to schools in the United States and Canada will receive student grants from the Ministry of Education.