‘Destined to go far': Student beats troubles to win excellence award
Neundae Simons doesn't mix words when he describes the troubles he has overcome.
Once overwhelmed by traditional schooling, Neundae said: “I wasn't really doing too good at Berkeley Institute. I made it up to S2, but I wasn't attending classes, I wasn't focusing like I should have been. I just wasn't into it.”
Now, as a student at the alternative Technology Skills Centre, Neundae's focus and dedication have just been celebrated with the 2010 Student Excellence Award, plus a $1,450 Technical Student Tuition Award and an offer for employment and mentorship from one of the biggest companies in Bermuda.
No small achievement for a 17-year-old who freely admits that, up until last year, he was described as “unmotivated”.
Technology Skills Centre director Michael Stowe said: “In the 16 months he's been in the programme, Neundae has never had any problems with regard to conduct or attitude. He's been positive, committed and determined, and in that he's very deserving of recognition.”
On receiving his award, Neundae just smiled: “It felt good.”
Neundae lives with his mother, Joann, at Crawl in Hamilton Parish, and credits much of his new found ambition to her support.
He said: “A lot of my motivation is focusing that my mother is paying for this.
“My main reason for doing so good is just to think about that.”
The Technology Skills Centre opened last September at the old Berkeley Institute, off St. John's Road, in Pembroke.
A vocational high school programme administered through Penn Foster High School in Pennsylvania, it caters to men generally aged 16 to 18 who show ability but have experienced difficulties with the traditional public school system.
The programme emphasises technical studies. Students learn a range of practical subjects, including small business management, to help them discover their interests.
The Centre currently has 19 students, with two teachers.
Mr Stowe said: “I was approached last year by the counsellors at Berkeley who described Mr Simons as not motivated, and that was evident when he began with us in September.
“But the strength of the programme is as students work for themselves, they become more motivated, and this is really what has turned him around. Mr Simons is now very focused, and it's evident by the fact that he has an excellent punctuality and attendance, perhaps the best of all our students.”
Neundae described his new studies: “There's no worry about homework any more. You can study if you want to at home, but you don't have to hand in assignments the next day. You can test whenever you want, instead of waiting till the teacher says when or having it sprung on you.
“When I feel I'm ready, I can take the test when I feel confident enough with the material. I got through it taking notes and doing exercises and getting ready for the exam.
“And you get half days, that's what I like about it much better.I come in the morning, go do the work as much as I can, get breaks every hour or so. If I plan to take a test that day I'll do a review if I feel that I need it, so it's like I'm in charge.”
In a few weeks the course moves onto small engine repair, which he said he's looking forward to.
“My daddy taught me a little about it at home, but now I'm doing it in school it's making more sense.”
Neundae hopes to graduate in June of next year, by which time he will be 18.
“I may go to Bermuda College after I'm done. I have more of an understanding of what's out there. I've been thinking of Atlanta Technical College too.”
In the meantime, one local employer is sufficiently struck by Neundae that she wants to offer him a job.
MarketPlace human resources director Alberta Waite said: “What impressed me about Neundae was his level of humility. I found him very courteous and polite and quiet-spoken.
“I also liked his punctality, which you don't always find in a young man of his age.”
The MarketPlace, she said, is offering Neundae the opportunity to try work in different departments, which range from human resources, warehousing and bookkeeping.
“It's in keeping with our philosophy, to help him get experience in different careers, but it's also in recognition that he has something. In fact, one of my objectives is to pair him with a young man working with us, now a store manager, who started out much like him.”
She said: “I had to congratulate Neundae's mother on doing such a fine job. This young man is destined to go far.”