Sandys 360 takes a bold step at mentoring
An initiative harnessing sports, art and leadership skills for middle school boys hopes to turn around a community in which young men feel under threat.
Asked how many of them knew someone in a gang, most in the gathering of 45 Sandys Secondary Middle School students slowly raised their hands.
Watching their enrolment into the Scholar Athlete Arts Leadership (SAAL) Academy, school principal Timothy Jackson said: We want to make this a way of life, something thats part of our culture supporting our young men. Most people hear the word programme and think of something temporary, but this will be a model for the rest of the Island.
The new class of M2 students has been adopted by the Sandys 360 Sports, Aquatic and Enrichment Centre next door to their school.
The 12- and 13-year-olds will get academic support, plus mandatory participation in arts or sports, aimed at getting them on the path to higher education.
Bermudian footballer John Barry Nusum, sports director at Sandys 360, said: The focus is college. We need to get as many Bermudians out seeing the world as possible. Our children are getting caught up in trouble here in Bermuda. This is about seeing a bigger picture.
His own college dreams came late in high school, Mr Nusum said, and football was his ticket to a scholarship overseas.
Standing to address the new SAAL class, he said: College is about way, way more than education. For a lot of us, its our first time away from our parents, living on your own, feeding yourself. It allows you to grow as a person, and it teaches you responsibility.
He won a scholarship through football, Mr Nusum said, but added: One thing I dont like is dumb football players. To play football, you need to be smart.
Studies such as the Mincy and Hopkins Reports, which highlight the plight of young black males, motivated the SAAL programme, Sandys 360 managing director Melvyn Bassett told the students.
Based on these reports, we have agreed to surround and support you, to help you truly become scholars, athletes and artists, Dr Bassett said. Thats the concept on which this programme is based.
SAAL is also supported by the Western Economic Empowerment Zone, Mirrors, Passports to College and Cambridge Beaches Hotel.
Sandys Secondary intends to study the students futures all the way to tertiary education, Dr Jackson said.
Visiting speaker and author Mychal Wynn, a supporter of the SAAL programme, was on hand to present students with copies of his book, Follow Your Dreams.
Proud students also put on their new SAAL Academy shirts.
It was a surprise, said 12-year-old Nathan Rego, of finding out that he was to be enrolled in the programme.
I found out about it last year, when Mr Wynn came to talk about it, the Somerset student added. I think my parents want me to be in it, too.
Asked if he preferred sports or art, Nathan said: Both. I like football, baseball and rugby. And I like painting and drawing.
His dream, for now, is to one day become a professional football player.
Fellow student Solomon Burrows, 12, of White Hill, Sandys, is also inclined to sports. I like soccer, the young goalie said.
He shook his head when asked if he had plans of what to study later in life, but said he was happy to be part of the programme.
Jahrico Smith-Gardiner, 13, of Friswells Hill, Pembroke, said he had learned from his school adviser the previous week that he would be enrolled.
I like sport, and Im pretty cool with art too, he said. I like dirt bike riding too.
Asked what he saw in the programme, Jahrico said: I think probably art, but you can learn mechanics, so you could work on cars, or do painting and paint peoples houses. Theres a lot of things you could do.
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