When 16-year-old Kevin Jean belted out his version of Sia’s “Unstoppable” at a Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA) ceremony Tuesday, he may have fumbled some words and went off key, yet it brought tears to the eyes of at least one person in the crowd.
“Kevin and his twin brother Kevon joined GGYA last year during the pandemic. Kevin stuck with the programme. Unfortunately, Kevon wasn’t able to embark on the hiking expedition and fulfill his Award requirements. He was gunned down six months later,” recalled Jacquetta Lightbourne-Maycock, GGYA’s national director, in explaining why she got misty eyed.
Moments earlier she had assisted in attaching Jean’s Bronze pin to his shirt during the brief ceremony held at the Grand Bahama school for special needs students.
“For me, the song symbolized Kevin’s tenacity. Due to a mishap at the start of the hiking expedition in June, Kevin nearly didn’t get to participate. So, both twins would have missed out, but here we are today. Despite having laid his brother to rest, Kevin has achieved his Bronze. He is now pursuing his Silver Award and dreams of becoming the first in his family to attend college. If he, and the other participants in his unit remain on the right path, they will continue to be unstoppable.”
GGYA’s first in-person Award ceremony since the onset of the pandemic two years ago, paid tribute to Kevin and his fellow participants: Cadejah Clarke, Levar Laing, Dennis Maycock, Justin Miller, Christopher Munroe, David Munroe, Dwayne Romer and Stephan Russell.
Although tens of thousands of young people in The Bahamas have passed through this programme which challenges young people to discover their purpose, passion and place in the world, this week’s ceremony marked only the second time a unit comprised exclusively of special needs participants has accomplish such a feat.
In 2012, the first special needs cohort of Bronze recipients also had the distinction of hailing from The Beacon School. In both cases, the units opted out of any special adjustments and carried out their 15-mile hike over two days just as any other unit does.
“Today is a very special day. We are here to honor our students who have worked so hard during the past year, during the pandemic to be able to improve their skills in various areas to grow and mature and to learn to be team players. They have done all of this in order to be able to qualify for the Award,” said Jynda Bain, GGYA volunteer at The Beacon School.
Each participant in the Award learns a skill, must improve their physical fitness, volunteer in their community and experience a team adventure in a new environment. Supporting the Beacon School Unit is a network of adult volunteers, unit leaders, assessors, the national office and a grant from The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation – GGYA’s international governing body.
“I’d like to say they performed remarkably well,” said Mrs Lightbourne-Maycock. “Not only did they meet the minimum requirement. They far exceeded what they were required to do in order to achieve their Award and I think that in itself is very, very commendable.”
In order to fulfill their Award requirements, the Beacon School unit grew and donated produce from their garden as their community service. They developed skills in hair cutting, auto detailing, cooking, and sewing. To increase their fitness levels they engaged in soccer, walking, and bocce.
“The Award recipients were not given any breaks. In other words, they performed like everybody else. That in itself is exceptional,” said Archdeacon James Palacious, GGYA’s management council chairman, in his remarks to the small crowd of teachers, family members and students.
“It has been said that success should be measured not so much by the number of accomplishments but rather by the number of obstacles you overcome in the process. If that holds true, then what we have here this morning is nothing short of a tremendous success.”
That’s a message that unit leader, Juanita Gaitor wants the country to receive loud and clear. “We want everybody to know throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas that the Beacon students they are unstoppable despite what others or persons may think of them,” said Mrs Gaitor who assumed the reigns of unit leader from Anneathera Neely at the start of the 2021/2022 school year. “They’re unstoppable because they achieve whatever they go after.”
Writer: Tosheena Robinson