Twenty-six junior high school students successfully graduated from the Save the Bays Youth Environmental Ambassador (YEA) Educational Program on Saturday past during a special ceremony at the Wallace Groves Auditorium.
The program directed by Save the Bays Education Director Joseph Darville strategically engages young people to become leaders, architects and agents in the protection and preservation of the environmental, economic and overall development of The Bahamas' landscape.
With the nation's youth primed to be the future leaders of The Bahamas, organizers of the Save the Bays Youth Environmental Ambassador (YEA) Educational Program expressed the view that young people must have the skills, tools and support necessary to play an active role in reshaping environmental policies.
According to Darville, " Today is the culmination of five months of really hard and diligent work with the YEAs.
" In this year, which is the second phase of the Save the Bays YEA Educational Program, we have incorporated the leadership elements in order for the graduates to have the sound ability, passion and drive to not only know about the environment but also celebrate, share, tell, protect and preserve it, taking the lead in keeping this magnificent environment and natural resources that God has blessed us Bahamians with, safe.
" We are so proud of these young people because most of them have been diligent in coming to the Save the Bays YEA Educational Program classes every Saturday morning for the past five months.
" All have garnered knowledge from our volunteer facilitators, who were equally dedicated in assisting the YEAs in arriving at the graduate point today in a myriad of categories.
" In their highest level of achievement it means we (Save the Bays Programs Coordinators) are secure in our estimation that the graduates can go out, celebrate and educate groups and individuals on the importance of protecting and preserving the environment," said Darville.
The initiative has been well supported by parents and family members of the graduates.
" Not only has the training received throughout the program helped mold the YEAs into dynamic environmental leaders for tomorrow in preserving for all generations The Bahamas' natural environment, it also greatly assisted them in earning top grades in their science, geography and social studies examinations," Darville added.
Jenneva Russell, a Save the Bays YEA Educational Program parent during her address at the graduation :
" As a parent of two Save the Bays YEAs I am so proud of how much my sons Jonathan and Jeremy Russell have grown since becoming involved in this educational program.
" The wealth of knowledge and information that they have gained throughout this venture has been most useful especially during their sitting of the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) National Examinations last year.
" Both achieved an A grade in Science, utilizing the information taught in their class at Bishop Michael Eldon School and also the Save the Bays YEA Educational Program.
" It has become tough living with these twin " Environmental Police" as they constantly point out the pollutant behavior of persons in and around our community whether someone carelessly throws garbage out their car windows or wastefully use water or electricity at home."
Russell pointed out that contrary to popular assumption, the Save the Bays YEA Educational Program was not all fun and field trips. Instead, she informed, it has been a structured program that taught her children the importance of protecting and preserving the environment, making the right decisions now to enjoy the benefits of The Bahamasâ natural resources in the future and to be cognizant of the fact that should we all not take care of these God-given treasures, we all would be negatively impacted beginning now and well into the years ahead.
" Thanks to the program my sons have also been taught how to be leaders and educate both persons older and younger than them about the environment.
" They received pertinent information, which not only taught them how to be team players but also armed them with an arsenal of environmentally-sound knowledge thereby providing them with a voice of advocacy in the community.
" So now I urge parents to let us continue to support our children in programs like YEA, as it surely would be beneficial to us all in the days, weeks, months, years and generations ahead.
Elated with the testimonials delivered during the graduation by YEAs, Darville revealed the program will resume this September/October with the same dedicated training opened to a select compliment of 30-40 junior high school students.
" This year we were fortunate to have nine of the junior high schools represented (government and private) and while initially the program began with 40 children, it dwindled to 26 due to a variety of issues which affected the attrition rate.
" In spite of this, we feel the program has been tremendously successful and it was certainly a delight to know that due to the information and training provided throughout, the course assisted the students in achieving great academic success in their national examinations.
" As you should know, everything Save the Bays YEA Educational Program does now in the environment is based upon practical aspects of what the graduates are learning in the schools.
" Most of the schools now have an environmental studies component that oftentimes shows up in the BJC or Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) and quite a few of the graduates were able to utilize the information learned in the Save the Bays YEA Educational Program to successfully complete their course work.
" We will now be addressing the schools so this program can be integrated into their curriculum including the aspect of leadership.
" Sharon Glover, Glover and Associates Inc. and the Center for Creative Leadership have been phenomenal leadership skills facilitators of the Save the Bays YEA Educational Program.
Vanessa Benjamin, the CEO of Save The Bays Youth Educationâ program, said that a more intentional process of learning, exposure and experience must be enacted among our youth.
" Recently, taking on this role as Save the Bays YEA Educational Program CEO I realized that I have always watched from the outside, admiring the organizationâ s determination to speak up for the environment.
" You see each and every one of us have that fundamental right to experience what God has blessed us with and to sit back and allow its destruction is grossly irresponsible.
" Graduates reflecting on your YEA experience I challenge you to think beyond me, myself and I, as we all must realize that our neighbors downstream suffer from water pollution, while those downwind suffer air pollution and others downhill from erosion.
" What you do to destroy the environment and that you do not do to protect it, I want you to please know that it would affect our children, grandchildren and more distant descendants.
" What kind of world do you want to leave to those neighbors downstream, downwind and downhill?
" We must begin to act in the best interest of the environment now," said Benjamin.
" Let us continue championing the cause for the protection and preservation of our environment," concluded Benjamin.
Published Tuesday, May 12, 2015