||Last Updated: Jul 12, 2017 - 1:24:43 AM
GGYA BASE 2017 participants
The school year may have ended but meaningful learning experiences continued for nearly 100 youths. They spent a week exploring Grand Bahama, fulfilling personal self-development goals on an amazing adventure which could bag them an award.
"Lucayan Trails," the code name for this year's Governor General's Youth Award (GGYA), Bahamas Award Super Expedition (BASE) runs for 10 days from June 29 to July 8.
BASE assembles GGYA participants from across The Bahamas, inviting them to explore new territories and partake in hiking expeditions that would qualify them for a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award. It is designed to foster cooperation, insightfulness, resourcefulness, innovation and community mindedness amongst youths age 14 to 24.
This year participants came from New Providence, Andros, Inagua and Grand Bahama.
Around 75 participants, adult unit leaders and volunteers cast off from the Potter's Cay Dock around 5pm Thursday, June 29, aboard a mailboat bound for Freeport. Thirteen hours later they joined 20 Grand Bahama-based participants in setting up camp at Jack Hayward High School.
For fraternal twins Tahj and Tionne Dorsett, GGYA serves a dual purpose. They have incredible experiences while gaining valuable skills.
Tionne, the elder by three minutes, hatched the idea of joining the internationally recognized programme, after his sister suggested they both join the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Rangers.
"It teaches us discipline," says Tionne. His sister interjects, "Both teach us about surviving in the real world, on our own."
On expeditions, the rising twelfth graders at Anatol Rogers Rodgers High School work as a team. "She cooks and I eat and clean," says Tionne.
While vying for their Silver Award, it's Tahj who keeps the pair motivated, physically giving her brother a "tap-up" any time he appears to be slacking off. Their goal is to see the award programme through to its completion.
While the twins viewed GGYA as a means of getting them outdoors, for Rickesha Rolle it provided an outlet for her aggression and it acted as a weight loss programme for Olrenika Hindsey.
"This programme helped me to change my attitude for the better. I would kick up attitude with authority figures," confessed Rolle, a 2017 graduate of Huntley Christie High School, formerly North Andros High.
"GGYA made me realized I needed to stop, settle down, get serious about life and get ready for the real world," said Rolle who hopes to qualify for her Gold Award. "It helped me improved my relationship with my peers, cooperate more."
For Rolle's schoolmate, Hindsey, the programme, which encourages physical fitness, helped her to shed unwanted pounds.
"I was 140 pounds when I started. Now, I'm down to 124," said the 5-foot, 2-inch, rising eleventh grader. "The programme got me active, running track and playing basketball for my Silver Award."
Rolle and Hindsey were two of 10 Andros participants whose trip was sponsored by BTC. Although the expedition takes the girls out of their comfort zone, the pair, happy to be making the trip, was confident they would push through.
A 2017, C V Bethel graduate, Ashley Vanzeylen viewed the adventurous journey as an opportunity to cultivate new friendships. She knows only one other person on the trip, classmate Kevette Todd.
"Before starting out I was an introvert. I'm more open now to making new friends, meeting new people and socializing," said Vanzeylen.
This week Gold Award participants will conduct a research study on the bird life in the Lucayan National Park and complete a hiking expedition which will take them through Waters Cay, Bevans Town and Riding Point.
Meantime, the Silver Award expedition team will travel along the island's foreshore from Gold Rock Creek, a cove in Freeport, to Pelican Point.
"They are in for quite an experience and a challenging exploration," says GGYA's national director, Denise Mortimer describing the days ahead for the program's 36 Gold and 38 Silver participants.
Recipients of a Silver Award must complete a three-day/two-night journey spanning 30 miles while Gold is a four-day/three-night expedition covering 60 miles. No Bronze Award-level participants made this trip.
All participants carry a backpack with their belongings. Its recommended weight is between 20-30 percent of their body weight. Not surprisingly, a number of training sessions are held prior to the qualifying trek.
The expedition is for many the final requirement necessary to receive their award after months of fulfilling community service, skills, and physical recreation obligations.
BASE attracted a slightly smaller crowd this year. Attendance tends to hover around 125 participants. Ms Mortimer attributes the decline to families' discretionary income shrinking. Thus, BTC's sponsorship of North Andros' participants proved to be a "godsend" for the organization.
A further set-back was the recent break-in at GGYA's headquarters in Palmdale which resulted in thousands of dollars lost in office equipment.
"We could aways use funding especially from the private sector," she said. "No one forces these young people to engage with the programme. This is something they want to do. It's sad when lack of funds stand in their way especially for inner city youths and at-risk young people."
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