Euphoria shoots through tenth grader, Arvis Mortimer when she spots a long awaited sight – camp lights in the distance. She had spent most of the day trudging along in the scorching sun, carrying about 30 percent of her body weight in a heavily laden backpack.
“This feeling that knowing there is an end to the challenges and difficulties transfers to every area of your life,” said Mortimer, now an adult and a Gold Award Holder in the Governor General’s Youth Award programme.
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are and how many opportunities you are given, but the fact that you can bounce back from disappointment and keep pressing towards your desires, despite obstacles, is the true reward in this programme.”
Mortimer, now a volunteer with the youth organization, was one of four past and present GGYA participants who touted the benefits of the programme during a recent “run come see” promotional event.
Held on Wednesday, February 26, at St Joseph’s Parish Hall on Boyd Road, the two-hour, evening presentation was designed to pique the public’s interest in teaming up with the internationally recognized award programme.
The GGYA requires participants (14 to 25-years-old) to serve a minimum amount of time developing a skill, carrying out a community service and a physical activity. Once they’ve done all that and successfully completed hiking requirements, they receive either a Bronze, Sliver or Gold Award (typically in that order).
“This programme develops grits, resilience, determination, the ability to work in a team and communicate effectively with others,” says Mortimer. “It’s only when you progress through each phase and level, do you realize you’ve actually attained these skills. Furthermore, I believe that these skills are not only important but they are necessary for young people to obtain true success.”
It was a message repeated throughout the night.
“The Award programme has increased my level of determination and endurance. It has made me realized that I cannot and should not give up,” said 14-year-old Stephen Saunders, a Bronze participant and student of C.V. Bethel Senior High School.
“I advise people to join the GGYA programme because it is very fulfilling. It builds life skills such as team work, stability, endurance and problem solving… You will go through many struggles but it will help you in the future.”
Saunders sentiments echoed the ones expressed by His Royal Highness Prince Edward when he visited The Bahamas back in 2011 to present the Gold Award to 23 young Bahamians in two ceremonies, one held in Grand Bahama and a second in New Providence.
The Earl of Wessex said he realized the programme was not a walk in the park.
“I did it as well so I know what you’ve been through. When you walk out of this room, walk a few inches taller,” he said. “There will be friends who will tell you, ‘Oh the Governor General’s Youth Award, I could do that.’ The difference is you know you can. Well done.”
Some participants, like Silver Award Holder Demetrio Ariza, are nature lovers at heart. Thus, the hiking component appeals to them.
“The pamphlets I saw had cool pictures of participants walking through water and hiking over bridges and I knew from then this was the programme for me,” said the Aquinas College student. “The GGYA taught me to be more eco-friendly as one of their most famous sayings is to leave a place cleaner than you met it. This attribute didn’t just stay at the camp site, or around parents, but even when I was alone.”
For Gold participant Xavier Knowles, a student at Government High School the Award programme taught him how to work with others “no matter the situation or their culture.”
“It helped to shape my leadership skills and helped me to communicate better,” he said.
‘Run come see’ aimed to sensitized the public to the work and impact that the GGYA has on the lives of the nation’s youths, according to Everette Mackey, a member of the GGYA’s national council.
Amongst other things, he credits the programme with teaching youths how to peacefully coexist.
“We have a problem with conflict resolution in the country. Young people do not get along. They believe in resolving issues with guns and knives,” said Mackey. “The GGYA teaches you how to get along. Living in a small tent besides others, you are depending on people because they depend on you. We must seek to ensure that our young people have these social skills whereby they could get along.”
The government continues to sponsor the GGYA though the Ministry of Youth’s, G.O.L.D. Initiative. A funding mechanism, the initiative takes its name from the ministry’s mandate to foster greatness, provide opportunity, instill leadership and promote development amongst the nation’s youths.
Since the partnership commenced in 2010, the GGYA has enrolled more participants, opened more units and presented more Awards than ever before.
Top to bottom: Bronze participant Stephen Saunders, Silver Participant Demetrio Ariza, Gold Participant Xavier Knowles and Gold Award Holder Arvis Mortimer pose in front of a GGYA tent.
Gold Award Holder Arvis Mortimer
Gold Participant Xavier Knowles
Silver Participant Demetrio Ariza
Bronze participant Stephen Saunders
GGYA National Council Treasurer
Photo(s) by Precision Media