Life lessons at Future Leaders
Like most teenagers, Tiye Holmes hates having to clean.
So when she was forced to tackle the bathrooms at the Salvation Army emergency housing centre, she wasn’t exactly thrilled.
“I don’t even clean at home,” the 14-year-old said. “And the bathrooms were disgusting. There was all this white stuff stuck to the floor. It really made me feel sorry for the people who lived there.”
The task was in keeping with Ryan Robinson Perinchief’s mandate. He started Future Leaders a year ago to help teenagers learn about poverty, crime and social justice in a way they couldn’t learn just by reading articles or watching documentaries. Tiye was one of 18 involved in the three-week programme last month.
“I have always been interested in social justice and activism even from when I was a [high school] student,” said Mr Robinson Perinchief, a 21-year-old law student at the University of Durham. “I was thinking about what I could do to help Bermuda.
“I saw a lot of young people who were demotivated and felt like they weren’t being heard.
“They didn’t feel like they had an outlet to voice their opinions. They didn’t feel they had a place they could go where they could learn about issues impacting the community.”
Future Leaders is open to students between the ages of 13 and 17. Community service, such as Tiye’s work at the Marsh Lane, Pembroke shelter, plays a big part as do field trips and talks with community leaders.
Mr Robinson Perinchief, a former head boy at the Berkeley Institute, guides them through it with assistance from Tiye’s mother, Tonisha Holmes, an English teacher at the school.
Zen Mello’s eye-opener came when the group visited the Drug Treatment Court. “I realised that these people were once just like me,” the 13-year-old said. “Their life took one wrong turn and changed completely. It made me much more aware of my actions.”
Students are nominated for Future Leaders through their schools, or their parents sign them up. “There are lots of programmes here for at-risk youngsters but not as many for the ordinary student,” Mr Robinson Perinchief said.
Ms Holmes signed her daughter up for the experience to improve her self-confidence.
“She doesn’t shut up at home but in public she’s more quiet,” she said. “I found within the programme that everyone had a voice.”
Zen was nominated by teachers at his school. He said he can be quiet and shy, and has sometimes been bullied. “I want to become head boy in two years,” the Clearwater Middle School student said. “I do speak up when something is important to me.
“Taking part in Future Leaders has helped me be more confident.”
As the youngest in the group, he initially found it a bit intimidating.
“It was hard to speak up at first,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone. But everyone was really encouraging and, towards the end, I didn’t have a problem voicing my opinion.
“Being in Future Leaders helped me notice all of the problems that we have in Bermuda, and made me think of the things I could do to help.”
He’s now thinking of using his new-found leadership skills to arrange a Keep Bermuda Beautiful clean-up in his St David’s neighbourhood.
Future Leaders changed Tiye’s perspective of herself and others. “Before we went to Drug Court, Future Leaders warned us people might act a little crazy,” she said. “But everyone was very calm. It made me want to help them.
“In Future Leaders, they taught us don’t judge a book by its cover, because you never know what a person is going through.”
She is considering becoming a lawyer, helping families and victims of crimes.
Ms Holmes said her daughter and some of the students in the programme were at first reluctant to take part in Future Leaders. They imagined it would just be three more weeks of school.
“Then at the end they saw how these issues related to them and that they are part of the community, and they didn’t want it to end,” she said.
One of the highlights was a round-table discussion with David Burt, the Premier, and Cabinet members.
“Students asked questions based on the things they’d learnt in the programme,” Ms Holmes said. “They were not prompted. It was funny to see what the various kids’ focus was. They asked Diallo Rabain [the education minister] a lot of questions. In fact, they asked him so many questions we had to ask them to ask someone else a question.
“One student asked if the Education Department could provide more opportunities for private and public schools to mix.”
She believes the question came because Future Leaders was the first opportunity for some public students to mix with private students and vice versa.
“That question really stood out for me,” Ms Holmes said.
Learn about Future Leaders at www.futureleadersbda.com or on Instagram: @Futureleadersbda