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US Embassy literacy partnership offers juveniles essential life skills
By Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
May 21, 2015 - 2:30:28 PM

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The American Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas offered a PAS Grant to the Centre for Achievement, Resources and Empowerment (C.A.R.E) to facilitate a Fast ForWord Literacy Program at the Willie Mae Pratt/Simpson Penn Co-educational Unit, a school facility for juveniles in custody. The 14-week program touched the lives of 22 students ages 13-16, and contributed to better reading, memory and cognitive skills. Shown in the photo from left to right are: Joseph Rolle, school Principal, Waysha McKinney, Fast ForWord Monitor/ Coach; Neda Brown, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, American Embassy, Bahamas, and Dania Sands-Blake, Director of C.A.R.E. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry.

Nassau, Bahamas – Through a partnership between the American Embassy in The Bahamas, and the Centre for Achievement, Resources and Empowerment (C.A.R.E), a group of students at the Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls and Simpson Penn Centre for Boys, were exposed to a literacy project that had a huge impact on their lives. The Fast ForWord Literacy Project took place at the joint residential care and school facility for juveniles in custody, from February to May 2015. It provided educational training and development in reading and learning challenged areas of twenty-two at-risk youth ages 13 to 16 years old.

“Education is the most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world,”   said Neda Brown, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, quoting Nelson Mandela, when she spoke to the students at the end of program awards event held May 12th 2015. “We are learning the value of different learning styles and investing resources into you, because you matter,”  was part of her key message. Brown encouraged the students, “Continue with your reading and improved skills and keep up the good work”.

The students were exposed to a 14-week program, utilizing “Fast ForWord”, a well-recognized reading and learning enhancement program that is computer centered and science based. Individuals and schools in The Bahamas that have used Fast ForWord have experienced improved academic achievement, better English language communication, enhanced reading skills, better listening and understanding, stronger memory and increased self-esteem.

Joseph Rolle, the Principal of the Co-educational unit welcomed the new synergies. “Partnerships like these are important to help us get things done. We hope to continue our relationship with C.A.R.E. and the American Embassy. On the last day of the program, there were a lot of watery eyes because these ladies not only taught but they appealed to the emotional and caring side of the students, and a strong bond was forged.”

Director of C.A.R.E. and Psychotherapist, Dania Sands-Blake and Waysha McKinney, a Fast ForWord Coach, were proud of the achievements made by the students. “It gave me great joy to see their accomplishments in the time we spent with them. Not only did

they benefit from the program but they persevered and finished,” said Sands-Blake.

With strengthened reading, self-assurance and cognitive skills, these students will have a better chance to compete in the job market and become better community citizens. It is widely believed that illiteracy is a main contributing factor to crime in The Bahamas as it is around the world. “These kids now have a greater appreciation for literacy. The quality of our life will depend on how well we work with them,” said Rolle.

Program sponsorship of the C.A.R.E. Literacy Project at the Willie Mae Pratt Centre for

Girls and Simpson Penn Centre for Boys was realized through a PAS Small Grant Program from the American Embassy in The Bahamas. Island Dental Ltd., My Ocean Ltd., and Domino’s Pizza provided donations toward the recognition party for the youth.

For more information on the Fast ForWord Reading and Learning Enhancement Program that is suitable for children, adolescents, adults as well as the elderly, please contact Dania Sands-Blake at 242-322-3010 or by email: carebahamas@gmail.com.

More information is also available on facebook: Care Bahamas

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