Many people talk about the need for investments in the youth; not as many are actually doing something about it. Every school day between 8 am and 2 pm, the 25 students on the campus of New Horizons Academy, get a daily dose of self-confidence. New Horizons Academy is an alternative secondary school. Alternative because while the academic curriculum is material, the staff first have to get the students to come to grips with why they were pulled out of the traditional schools and enrolled at NHA.
If students become disruptive and are unable to give their school work the attention it deserves, they are referred to NHA by the Ministry of Education. Typically things reach a head when they start to act out aggressively or distract other students away from their studies.
The unique blend of academic and counselling experience at the school is the ideal salve for these young people. One constant goal of the school is to build self-awareness and confidence in the students, these are the first steps on the journey to combat and manage frustrations; the real source of the unwanted behaviour. Fostering self-awareness and confidence has always been a challenge with teenagers; at NHA it’s central to helping them manage their emotions.
Dwight Saul had this in mind when he approached Pinelands Creative Workshop earlier this month, he is one of two Counseling Psychologist at the school and teaches Health and Family Life. The school needed some bicycles as part of their emotional management modality. Specifically, teachers allow the students to use the bikes for fun and exercise, but also to vent. A vigorous ride can be cathartic. Mr Saul explained that they don’t give up on any child, there are no lashes, suspensions or expulsions. And the school uses many practical interventions to help students recognise that just as there are consequences for antisocial behaviours, there are also alternatives to those same behaviours.
As far as PCW is concerned, supporting students like the ones at NHA is why the PCW was formed 40 years ago. Shelly Durant-Forde, the Chief Financial Officer, is explicit on the Pinelands mandate. She explained that at-risk communities and youth are at the core of their operations; PCW and its members may be known for their achievements in dance and drama, but that is not why the NGO exists. Dance and dramatic productions are how the organisation celebrates the continued successes of each cohort of young people who join the group. It is how they remind Barbadians that there is merit in all life and that everyone has something to contribute.
She sees NHA as a partner in the fight to give all Barbadians an equal opportunity regardless of where they were born or whatever social disadvantage they face. She was happy to hear that NHA not only provides meals for its students but also exposes them to life skills like cooking and laundry and garment care. She was also impressed with the outreach that includes the families of the students, something Mr Saul explained was necessary to support the students adequately.
Both Durant-Forde and Saul are looking forward to a productive working relationship that goes well beyond the bicycles donated.