Looking in the mirror and doing something
Four years ago, Kerry Judd answered a TV advertisement calling for volunteers in the pilot programme of Government’s Mirrors.
At that point she was an avid volunteer, but wouldn’t describe herself as being particularly passionate about young people or as having a burning desire to support the youth of Bermuda.
“I did sit back and say ‘you are pretty vocal and you flap your lips about what should be done, so put your money where your mouth is and go check it out’.”
With that spirit in mind Ms Judd went to the Mirror’s programme orientation in October 2007. She left with a renewed sense of purpose and immediately signed up to be placed wherever there was a need.
“The programme showed an opportunity for empowering young people and having them see beyond what had occurred in their lives,” she said.
“I have had a blessed life, but I was able to identify as an adult that this orientation video spoke of some of the challenges I have had personally and how I thought of myself.
“I decided ‘let me go and see what I could do’ and I haven’t looked back.”
Ms Judd, 38, has since seen hundreds of young people, aged 15 to 18, graduate from the personal development programme. She has personally coached six young people and encouraged them on a positive life path.
The Government-run programme gives youth an opportunity to “make mistakes, clean themselves up and get support by their coach that is not based on judgement,” Ms Judd said.
Launched in 2007, participants have been challenged to look at the meaning of commitment and responsibility and discover their own voices. They are taught to know the difference between being ‘informed by the past’ versus ‘being determined by it’ and how to create new visions for their lives.
The teenagers set goals for themselves, some common ones including having better relationships with their families, improving their attitudes and raising their educational performance.
Over the years she has seen young people who were angry, lost and without hope turn their lives around.
To this day she remains an avid believer in the success of the programme. The statistics show 91 percent of young people who graduate from Mirrors have not offended or reoffended, she said. Approximately 78 percent have either completed their education or are actively pursuing education.
She said she knew of a young man who graduated from the Mirrors programme who got in trouble with the law, but when placed before a judge in court took responsibility for his actions.
“Normally young people think of every excuse in the book.” That is success she said.
“Success is a young man who had to be a good 6ft 4in and when he walked he looked like he was 5ft. He was hunched over and spoke to no one and when spoken to it was like you had to yank one murmur answers out of him.
“Now when you see him in town he will actually walk up to you and say ‘hi’.
“Success is having a young man feel guilty after making a goal around violence and feeling guilty when he did grab his machete and walk out the door, when normally he feels nothing, and he is now married and has a child.
“Success is having our young people graduate and come back and volunteer or raising their math average from 11 percent to graduating with low honours in two years.”
Ms Judd said the programme ultimately gave a new meaning to her life. She has maintained a close relationship with a majority of the young people she mentored and said: “I don’t have children of my own, but I have a whole bunch now.
“I have had conversations as an non-parent that I never thought I would. I did the late night calls and pick ups.”
She even left her job at a successful public relations firm and has now started her own business New Beginnings Inc., which gives her the freedom to work more closely with non-profit organisations.
She also founded the New Beginings Education Trust in late 2009, which is soon set to award it’s first student with funds to complete their GED.
The award must be given to a young person who has undergone a self-development programme such as Mirrors, Raleigh International or the Bermuda Sloop.
She said many of the young people in such programmes have set goals to complete their education, but were often discouraged when they found out the cost of the GED programme, which can run upwards of $5,000.
She hopes the bursary will give young people the boost they need to continue their studies.
Ms Judd said none of these changes may have come about in her life had she not stumbled on the Mirrors programme.
“It was through Mirrors I found my passion. I finally discovered what I was looking for a really long time and that was the answer to the question: ‘what I am doing here?’
“This is what I want to do with my life. I wanted to support the young people of our Island.”