Inspired by his sister, cadet goes the extra mile
Eighteen-year-old Willis Steede plans to march twice in the Bermuda Day Parade next month: once in his school’s band, and again with the Warner Gombey Troupe.
A long-serving member of the Bermuda Cadet Corps, Willis is accustomed to going the extra mile.
The Berkeley Institute student was recently honoured with two Outstanding Teen Awards, bestowed annually by youth charity Teen Services.
“It made me feel very proud of myself,” said Willis, of his awards in the male category for leadership as well as community service. “To some of my peers it was no surprise, simply because of the way I carry myself. I try to portray leadership throughout my entire life.”
Willis has donated 250 hours of community service over the past school year — students are only required to complete 20.
He said: “Most of the hours I obtained were from working with the Cadet Corps of the Bermuda Regiment. We went to Lorraine Rest Home and Serenity Gardens, painting, landscaping, cutting the grass, giving entertainment to the guests.”
The teenager joined the Cadet Corps five years ago, following in the footsteps of his older sister, Katherine.
“She made it to the highest possible rank a girl — or anybody — can reach in the Cadet Corps, which is Regimental Sergeant Major,” said Willis. “She inspired me to go for it. I made it to Corporal two years ago. It was still a great challenge. I’m getting too old for the Cadets now; I went 18 last Saturday. But if I was to join the [Bermuda] Regiment I could pass her rank. I haven’t currently decided.”
He recommends the Corps as “a positive thing that young people can do with a Friday night”.
“One thing they really taught me is life lessons. You learn how to survive in the event of not having a house, or anything for that matter.”
Gombey performance is another family tradition.
Willis explained: “I joined the Warner Gombey Troupe when I was two or three years old, and I’ve been doing it ever since. My father, Willis Steede Sr, was captain of the troupe; he retired last year. My current role is chief; I’m second in line to be vice-captain or captain. That helps with leadership as well.”
He continued: “Family has a lot to do with it, but others can join. We don’t really neglect anyone. But the main thing about Gombeys, it depicts slavery times, and that’s the backdrop of it.
“All the adults teach students discipline, to be respectful, to be kind. We all have that love bond. I call people ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ just out of respect.”
The troupe will be put through their paces on Bermuda Day. Willis will have to juggle their schedule with what he’s expected to do as a member of the Berkeley Marching Band. A trumpet player, he is also a section leader in the band.
“I like to keep busy,” he said.
The Pembroke teen spoke with
The Royal Gazette during a break from preparations for a fashion show aimed to raise money for Willis’s graduating year.
The show, dubbed Cirque de Berkeley, will be held on May 4 and 5.