Denise is the National Director of the Bahamas. She began her career as a teacher, before learning about the Award by accident and applying to become it’s National Director. 

Denise, National Director of the Bahamas

I first found out about the Award when I was a teacher. I saw a poster on the wall above a teacher’s desk. I read the information and asked a few questions. What really got me interested was the Service and Adventurous Journey sections. I felt then and still do now, that young people should learn how to give useful service; how to help their communities and find out more about their country, by hiking and camping. A few years later, I saw an ad in the local paper for a Director of the same programme and just jumped at the opportunity to continue working with young people but in a different environment.

My greatest achievement so far working with the Award Programme, is recruiting volunteers. The Bahamas is not known as a country of volunteers, so recruiting adults to help mentor young people, especially in the Adventurous Journey section, has been wonderful. We have been able to recruit over 100 volunteers every year. Some of them have been involved for 10 years. So having adults between the ages of 18 to 58 or older giving service, helping young people, I think has been my greatest achievement. Without them, the GGYA would never have had over 31,000 young people take up the Award challenge.

I have met three key inspirational people along my Award journey so far: Mrs. Gillian Shirazi, who was a former Secretary General of the Award. The late Mr. Robert Nihon, who was Chairman of the Bahamas and helped to get it re-started. And also, Mrs. Rosamund Roberts, who is still involved with the Award. Mrs. Roberts originally joined forces with Mr. Nihon, they got it working and it is still going for thirty years.

My ambition for the Award in the Bahamas is to see it maintain its status as one of the country’s premier youth programmes. I would like to see over 50% of our participants achieve their Award. Those are not hard goals to achieve, but it is going to take a lot of work.

Some obstacles I see in the future for the Bahamas Award would be attracting young people. Some young people do not seem as interested in embracing adventure these days. They are preoccupied with looking for scholarships or getting paid. Getting and keeping young people interested in the Award, I think is going to be an obstacle. Of course, also finding and keeping suitable volunteers in the future I see perhaps becoming a problem also. Another obstacle I could see in the future and in 10 years time is economics. Financial support for the Award programme is crucial to success. We can have volunteers, we can recruit participants, but in the Bahamas because we are an archipelago, financial support is very important. We are trying to reach every young person in the Bahamas. So the financial health of the organisation could be an issue, and finding private partnership is something we will have to work harder with.

The future of education will entail technology playing a greater role. More technology is already being incorporated into education. More people will also find out that non-formal education is just as important as formal education. Some young people learn differently from others. So technology and non-formal education will change the way we teach our young people.

Some of our volunteers have been involved for 10 years. So having adults between the ages of 18 to 58 or older giving service, helping young people, I think has been my greatest achievement. Without them, the GGYA would never have had over 31,000 young people take up the Award challenge.

Elements that I think contribute to a good education are those that prepare young people to become productive citizens in their country. It is important to train young people in what their interests are, rather than simply maintaining good results in exams. Preparing them for the social aspects and the world out there is equally important. A good educator is someone who prepares young people to use whatever skills they have. Whatever they say they can do – doing and helping themselves and others along the way.

The best ways to equip and empower young people to be agents of positive change in the future is the way that we train them today. Young people should be encouraged more and more to develop their own interests.

We must encourage young people to believe in themselves more. We need to ensure that they have access to the tools that they need to develop their interests; tools they need to succeed. We need to ensure that they understand that they are the ones that are responsible for their own success. Our role as adults is to advise and guide them. We are here to ensure that they get the training, and to supply them with the tools that they need.

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