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'Through Mirrors I got an understanding of life'

CedarBridge Academy students (left to right) Coreen Scott, 17, Dimetre Daniels,16 and Kwesa Kaisha Smith, 16, are turning their lives around thanks to being a part of the Mirrors programme.

Life has its ups and downs. It's how you handle the situation that shows your character. This is one of the most important lessons that Coreen Scott, 17, of CedarBridge Academy learned while taking the Mirrors programme.She and three other students at the senior school recently graduated from the programme. Launched by Government in 2007, it is an empowerment programme for youths between the ages of 12 and 25.It gives young people the chance to change their mindsets and take responsibility for their lives with the help of volunteers or “committed partners” from the community.Former Junior Minister of Health Thaao Dill revealed earlier this year that Mirrors had a 92 percent success rate - 79 percent of graduates had found employment on completion. A school counsellor first suggested Coreen join Mirrors - her attendance was poor; she would often skip school to just hang around the house.“I wasn't as optimistic about my future, as I am today,” she said.Coreen, Dimetre Daniels, 16, and Kwesa Kaisha Smith, 16, were part of a group of six CedarBridge Academy students who signed up for a one-day orientation programme to see if they wanted to join Mirrors.Two other students decided it wasn't for them at that stage. Dimetre knew that his attitude needed an adjustment - his grades were so poor he'd been put in a special academic programme.Kwesa also saw Mirrors as an opportunity to improve. She was always getting into fights. She joined Mirrors at the urging of her mother and a school counsellor.Dimetre, Kwesa and Coreen then joined more than 40 young people from around the Island in a week-long residential component of Mirrors held at Willowbank Hotel & Resort.“Almost every morning we had to do a challenge course,” said Dimetre. “Part of it included fitness activities like running, push-ups and sit-ups and stuff like that.“After that we had course work for two hours at a time. We had three courses a day but we had breaks in between.”Each was also assigned a roommate their own age and an adult committed partner. After the residential component was completed, the committed partner continued to work with them for the next nine months as a mentor and counsellor.“I saw it as a place where I could improve my attitude,” said Kwesa. “I was being disrespectful at times. I didn't pay attention.“That was a good place for me to look at my attitude and try to change it. A lot of people there were trying to do the same thing, so there was lots of encouragement.“It opened my eyes on what I was feeling about certain things, and that I was taking it out on other people.”Coreen said that until the Mirrors programme she had a “nonchalant” and “uncarish” attitude towards her schoolwork and her life, in general.“I always made excuses and blamed others for my mistakes,” she said. “Through Mirrors I got an understanding of life. I learned to think before I acted.”She said that today, as a result of taking the Mirrors programme, she is more motivated and respectful towards others and more optimistic about life and learning new things. Mirrors helped all three CedarBridge Academy students articulate their goals and make a plan to achieve them.Coreen wanted to make it to the honours list, and graduate from high school. She wanted to eventually go away to school to study cosmetology. She is currently working as a salon assistant at Bold & Beautiful to get some experience.Dimetre wanted to work in the insurance industry. Kwesa wanted to work in the medical field, maybe in plastic surgery.CedarBridge Academy deputy principal Rosemary Matthews said since the three students had taken part in Mirrors none of them had been in the office on disciplinary matters. She said Dimetre was doing so well he was moved out of the special programme and into the regular academic programme.“My committed partner came to our prize giving,” said Mr Daniels. “I won the most improved student award. I am more focused now. It is kind of difficult, sometimes, to stay focused in school. We are children and we want to laugh and tell jokes - you just have to know when to do it at the right time.”Coreen would like to become a peer assistant with Mirrors when she graduates from high school.“Before Mirrors, I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. I didn't think I was going to be able to make it through CedarBridge. After Mirrors, it seemed like it was harder than it was for the last three years.“They told me that it was not school that was changing it is myself that was changing. I am looking at it differently. It helped me. Before, if I looked at an assignment and it looked challenging, I would be like ‘oh, this is hard. I am not going to do it'.“Now I will look at it and I say, ‘okay, well I can do this'. I don't think I was afraid of failure, but I was non-carish towards my schoolwork.”Ms Matthews said ultimately, it was up to each individual student to get what they could out of the Mirrors programme.“Basically, it reinforces for them that there are other people out there who are suffering,” she said. “By sharing it gives them strategies to overcome their difficulties. You can see their confidence. Recently, we went to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess for the college fair.“They were interested. They realised ‘hey, I have a future'. The past may have been bleak, but since Mirrors they know they have something to hold on to.“They have the skills to refrain themselves from getting involved in negative behaviour. Because of the Mirrors programme, not only do they have a committed partner, they know they have people in the building whom they can run to right away, and say, ‘hey it is a rough day, we need to debrief', rather than taking it into their own hands.”In February, several teachers at CedarBridge Academy took a Mirrors development course.It was specifically designed to help motivate and empower the teachers to work more effectively with their colleagues, students, and other members of the community.Ms Matthews said teachers and counsellors could now use the Mirrors training to help the student by reminding them of what they had learned.“Some staff is involved with Mirrors but it is voluntary because it is very demanding,” she said. “We have a vibrant counselling programme at CedarBridge Academy.”As a result, students who once spent a lot of time in the counsellors' office now have the necessary coping skills, Ms Matthews added.She said the present times in Bermuda have put a lot of strain on students and their families.“Thinking of the times at present, the social emotion demands of the 21st century are far different from previously,” she said. “We try to be cognisant of what is happening in Bermuda right now.“You don't know whose family has been involved in one of the gang-related opportunities. These are playing on our students.“We are asking our students to come and perform academically in the midst of all this. Mirrors helps them to deal with their problems.”Mirrors offers several programmes - a co-ed community programme for 15 to 18-year-olds; a programme for males between the ages of 19 and 24; workshops mainly for parents of the young people involved in the programmes, and professional development training for participants over the age of 21.There is also a coaching for success programme for middle school students.For more information telephone 294-9291 or e-mail mirrors[AT]gov.bm.