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Bahamas Fresh Start program gets high mark

FREEPORT – The Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture sponsored Fresh Start Program is getting high marks and praises from Grand Bahama’s youth.

The program, which provides job skills training to young people between the ages 16 – 25, began for the first time in Grand Bahama last October and concluded on December 30th 2005.

Seventeen young men and women participated and their curriculum covered a variety of personal development and job readiness topics.

On Tuesday the 1st Fresh Start Graduating Class paid a courtesy call on Mrs. Ann Percentie-Russell, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and expressed much delight over their accomplishment. Leading the group was Ms. Denise Minnis, Assistant Director of Youth who also applauded the program, and the Grand Bahama based participants.

Addressing the group assembled in the Prime Minister’s Freeport office, Parliamentary Secretary Mrs. Ann Percentie Russell said that was pleased with the good response from the participants of the Fresh Start Program, and suggested that the program be expanded to include more young persons.

She likewise sent a thank you message to the Minister of Youth, the Honourable Neville Wisdom, whose efforts brought the program to Grand Bahama.

Terming the program “vital” Mrs. Russell said, “I have seen the many persons between the ages of sixteen thru twenty-five years who are out of school, unemployed, lack employment skills and looking for work experience.

“The various businesses that partnered with the Ministry ought to be commended as well,” she stated, noting that it was encouraging to hear from the graduates as she urged them to utilize what they had learnt and ensure that other young persons register for the Fresh Start Program.

According to Ms. Minnis they began on October 3rd 2005 with their Job Training Seminar, which included personal development training, and job readiness training, utilizing the talents of various professionals from throughout the community to assist in the training. In addition to the training mentioned the Ministry also allowed the young persons to participate in a computer-training program.

“We are proud to say that all of our participants are proficient in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Power Point, which is a great accomplishment. This is something that they have not done in New Providence so we feel ready proud about that,” she said.

Upon completion of the seminar and computer training component the young persons were given the opportunity to assist in the development of their communities, where they were placed in various sector to do community service.

According to Ms. Minnis this is also very important because “we believe that young people should understand the importance of contributing to their community.”

Following the segment on community service, the young people were placed on Internship based on the interest of the individuals. A number of companies participated in the Internship aspect of the program that lasted six weeks.

Ms. Minnis was also pleased to inform that a number of the young persons were retained on the job were they did the six-weeks internship, and those who were not retained were given temporary positions.

She also took the opportunity to advise that during the Seminar component of the program, young persons were paid a stipend of $100.00 a week, and during the Internship segment they were paid $175.00, with $100.00 of that amount being paid by the Ministry of Youth, while the additional $75.00 came from the business partners.

Ms. Minnis noted that the businesses that participated in the program were very supportive.

“They thought it was an opportunity for them to contribute to the development of young people in the country. They also thought it was an opportunity for them to bring young persons in whom they could mold and train so that they can assist in the betterment of the work force in the future.

“We think that Fresh Start has a bright future here in Grand Bahama and we are looking forward to beginning another cycle very shortly,” she added.

She agreed that the young persons have renewed confidence in themselves, and self-esteem.

“They are very encouraged. These young persons you see here today are not the same young persons I met on October 3rd 2005. I am very excited about the program,” she said.

A number of the participant spoke enthusiastically about the Fresh Start Program, with several of the participants holding back tears as they reflected on the positive impact it has made on their lives.

Ms. Shokeea Woodside said she had been with the program since October 3rd and “it is just wonderful.”

Ms. Krystal Jones said, “The Fresh Start Program has given me the opportunity to accomplish many wonderful things in my life. I haven’t had a job since I came out of school in July and being apart of the program, it helped me get the experience that I needed to go on a job.

“It taught me how to act, how to present myself in a more professional manner. My dream is always to become a lawyer and the Fresh Start Program has given me the opportunity to work in a law firm, to feel of what it is like to work in that area and build a career,” she said.

Continuing she said that she has been in Moss and Associates law firm for six weeks and the environment was wonderful, and the staff pleasant. She said the company has now given her a full time job, and “I am very happy for that.

“I just want to say to our head, Ms. Minnis, thank you very much. And to the Government and everyone that contributed to this program, I just want to say thank you, and I hope that many other young individuals, ones who are here and have already been through the program, that it benefits you in your future,” she said.

Ms. Laurel Russell said the program was very motivating to her as a young mother and thanked God and her parents for standing by her.

“Before I entered this program I was doing nothing. And I am inspired because I’m so motivated to do things. I want to go back into school again; I will not let this be just the last; the best is yet to come and the sky is now the limit,” she said.

She said that she love working with all those persons at the Grand Bahama Development Company, where she did her internship.

The Fresh Start Graduation is schedule for 7:00 pm Friday January 20th 2006 at the Pavilion at Our Lucaya Resort. The Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, the Honourable Neville Wisdom will be in attendance.

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