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Supporting education opportunities

In 1982 the Lyford Cay Foundations launched its international scholarships program, with a dozen awards valued at $2,500. Last year the Foundations funded some 80 Lyford Cay Foundations scholarships, valued on average at $15,000 per year. And since inception, nearly 3,000 Bahamians have earned post-secondary degrees.

Three thousand donors; $63 million of donations, of which $44 million have been disbursed; and $23 million in assets later, the Foundations’ work of providing post-secondary scholarships to Bahamians is carried out through principal programs – Scholarships, FOCUS (Forward, Onward to College, Upward to Success), Cutillas Scholars and Community Grants which have helped many Bahamians to realize their full potential.

The Foundations’ accomplishments were noted during a recent 50th anniversary celebration.

“Whether one-time modest contributors, or steadfast donors who have contributed millions over decades, or Lyford Cay Scholars making their mark in the community – all have played a part in the growth and development of the people of our wonderful country,” said Lynn Holowesko, a Foundations board member.

She said while there is much work to be done, with continued philanthropic support, partnership with the Bahamian community and the help of God, they were confident they would exceed their present amazing accomplishments over the next 50 years.

Holowesko said their mission is to provide educational opportunities to those who would benefit the most and that they firmly believe that a better Bahamas for all starts with strategic investment in education.

“We also believe that combined government, public and philanthropic investments in education are the keys to the long-term development of a prosperous, safe and healthy Bahamas.”

Community Grants, originally called Gifts and Grants, was their first program, and it is through this branch that they have supported many community organizations.

Their most recent programming development area is in College Access. With a long history of funding scholarships, the Foundations realized that many Bahamian students face systemic challenges that prevent them from accessing and qualifying for opportunities to study beyond high school.

In 2011, they launched the FOCUS program. In the program, they work with the students for eight years, on Saturdays during the school year and through their summer program. Holowesko said their work with the FOCUS students helps to prepare them for post-secondary education. The goal for the students is that they will go on to graduate from college and will be the first generation in their families to do so.

They started with 30 fifth-grade students; today they support some 240 public school students in grades five through 12.

The Cutillas Scholars Programme (founded in memory of Manuel Cutillas, a former chairman) supports a dozen students who never thought college would be a possibility. They are enrolled at the University of The Bahamas (UB) and Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI). She said they too are expected to be the first in their families to earn post-secondary qualifications.

Felicity Humblestone, the Foundations’ executive director and a Lyford Cay Scholar, said donor impact reverberates throughout the country in the Lyford Cay Scholar network, most of whom are home in The Bahamas, working, creating, running their own businesses, working in non-profits and more.

Donovan Moxey, Bahamas Power and Light chairman, a 1985 scholar, said the Lyford Cay Foundation gives those Bahamians who would not otherwise have an opportunity to go off to college the ability to do that.

“When you have students that are smart enough and are hardworking enough, they should not be impeded because they don’t have the money,” he said.

Chauntez Dillet-Wilson, communications coordinator, Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG), and a 2006 scholar, said receiving a Lyford Cay Foundation scholarship meant an expansion of opportunity, choices and the opportunity to live up to what she knew she was capable of.

“I was able to cultivate a lot of ideas around how activism and democracy should work. It meant that the world is my oyster in a way that it just wouldn’t have been before [the scholarship].”

Jasmine Williams, policy and compliance, Securities Commission, is a 2015 scholar. She was the first person in her immediate family to go to college. She recalled always wanting to do more, but not having a clue where she would get the funds. She said the Lyford Cay Foundations scholarship helped her achieve that goal.

“The Lyford Cay Foundation is very important – it gives students hope that they can go to college, achieve their goals, and that higher education is not a far-reaching goal or dream.”

Williams has a colleague whose children are in the FOCUS program. She said her colleague always talks about how appreciative she is for it.

“The impact is only growing, and it’s a good thing,” said Williams.

“I believe that investing in education is very important for the economic development and health of the country. Once we continue to feed into [this], the country would be a better place.”

Williams said she hopes that she can one day donate to the Foundations as she wants to help them continue helping other generations.

Dr. Krista Sherman, a marine scientist/researcher at the Perry Institute, said she would not have been able to do her Doctorate degree had she not received the Foundations’ funding.

“I am extremely thankful to the Foundation and the donors for investing in Bahamians that want to pursue post-graduate education, especially international students. It would not have been possible any other way,” said Sherman.

She encourages people to donate to the Foundations, as she says their money is investing in the future of The Bahamas, which she said is important.

“A lot of us (students) do come back to work in the country. I can’t stress the importance of the donations. The students are extremely thankful for the opportunity,” said Sherman.

Humblestone also noted that they support close to 100 students each year at UB through funds raised by Nancy Kelly, the late Bill Holowesko and others to create a $5 million endowment fund which was established in 1997.

Humblestone said at UB, they also contributed more than $4 million in funds to outfit its main library – the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Centre. And that last year, 89 percent of the successful candidates in their international scholarships program were students who will be the first generation of college graduates in their family, a quarter of which originated from outside of New Providence.

The Foundations started in the early 70s with an initial contribution to the Bahamas Association for the Physically Disabled. In those days the organization was known as the American Friends of The Bahamas.

Holowesko spoke to first hearing of the organization’s work through a friend, Bob Blum, one of the founding members.

“The good deeds of the ‘Friends’, as they were known, continued for many years and eventually became the Lyford Cay Foundations, which have now supported some 240 community organizations throughout The Bahamas – from Abaco to Inagua.”

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