A self-described “girly girl” who loves her make-up, nails, hair and lash extensions, English language and literature teacher Rochelle Anderson is an unlikely volunteer for a youth program known for its foot expeditions and camping outdoors.

Remembering her childhood experience as an insecure and often misjudged orphan who was always the new student in school, the Grand Bahama educator has a burning need to bring about a positive change in others much like the mentorship her teachers provided.

This she does through the Governor General’s Youth Award, a skills-building, internationally recognized program for young people that equips them for life and work.

“GGYA is a program where my boys who don’t see themselves as being leaders or those who we look at as being nuisances or bad boys – always in trouble, for some reason or the other – those are the boys who when they get into the program become my positive leaders,” said the 46-year-old educator at Jack Hayward High School in Freeport.

Since becoming an advisor to the program in 2015, she has guided over 100 participants through the world’s leading youth achievement award.\

“When I’m with them it’s a totally different vibe and feel from when they are in school and they are being blamed for everything. Persons sometimes see their history and they don’t see what their future can look like or their potential. They just see a child that’s always in trouble. GGYA gives my students the opportunity to show themselves in different light.”

Having spent half her life in the classroom, the 23-year veteran has experienced the highs and lows that come with the profession. Still, she remains passionate about her calling inspired by her late mother, Mavis Anderson, who died in childbirth at the age of 33, but not before instilling in her five-year-old daughter a strong love for learning.

Striving to give her best to students is a trait Ms Anderson shares with two GGYA advisors and fellow nominees in the Ministry of Education’s national Teacher of the Year Award 2019.

A F Adderley’s Kirkland Charles and Tamika Rahming of Preston H Albury High School in Rock Sound, Eleuthera routinely go above and beyond the call of duty in their quest to inspire and transform students to want to achieve and succeed.

Experiencing the life-changing Award for himself, Mr Charles, a GGYA alumnus jumped at the opportunity to get the program up and running at his school. The program launched there in 2015, with 14 participants – all ninth graders interested in developing skills, getting physically active, giving service and experiencing adventure. Presently, there are nearly 30 in the school’s unit, completing the various levels of the Award: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Like both his fellow nominees, Mr Charles is a graduate of The University of The Bahamas. The 25-year-old family and consumer science teacher who is in his fifth year at the junior high school is committed to unlocking his students’ potential, giving them the opportunity to learn at their own pace and perhaps, more importantly, learn by doing.

The unit boasts a growing number of returning participants who matriculated to nearby senior high schools for tenth grade but prefer to continue with the program at A F Adderley because of the positive impact Mr Charles has made on their lives and the trust he has built up with participants’ parents.

“The Gold participants are like my children. It’s amazing to see how they developed over time, taking the lead on expeditions,” said Mr Charles who functions as the eighth-grade year head but still finds time to serve on various school committees and in church ministries.

“GGYA’s training caused them to come out of their shell. I see us developing some great leaders amongst our Bahamian people.”

The Governor General’s Youth Award offers a well-rounded program of personal development ensuring that young people not only broaden their life experiences but also develop the right foundation featuring positive character traits and soft skills – empathy, teamwork, conflict resolution, time management and the like – ultimately leading them to broader success.

“My participants who have stuck with the program have really turned out to be excellent role models in society. They are not just sitting on a block. They are doing things with their life. Even after going off to school and finishing college they are returning to the South Eleuthera community,” said Mrs Rahming, Preston H. Albury High School’s, Teacher of the Year 2019 and the district winner for South Eleuthera.

“I think that’s impressive. It says something about the caliber of persons that GGYA has trained. That training, particularly in volunteering, has created deeper ties, prompting them to not only return home but to assist in the GGYA program and give back.”

As a very young child teaching her siblings on the steps of her grandmother’s clapboard home, the Preston Albury alumna knew she would one day become an educator, even though the profession initially took a back seat to the culinary arts.

Mrs Rahming, who studied as an apprentice chef at the Bahamas Hotel Training College, worked for 13 years as a level two cook in the kitchen of a local resort before pursuing her teaching degree and certification.

She teaches family and consumer sciences, hospitality studies and food and nutrition and has coached her share of students to victory in national cooking contests including Kristen Ingraham, this year’s junior division winner of the 27th annual Young Chef Culinary Competition and Avery Hall, the 2018 winner in the senior division.

Of the 18 years spent at the South Eleuthera high school, Mrs Rahming has volunteered with GGYA for 12 of them. Her unit typically ranges between 20 to 25 participants.

“I love what GGYA does for our youths, molding young persons and steering them in the right direction,” said the 45-year-old department head of technical and vocational studies.

“So many young people, we are losing them. GGYA is an important tool to steer young persons in the right direction, giving back to community through service and skills.”

It’s no easy feat to get young people aged 14 to 24, to go the extra mile, pushing personal boundaries in order to come to the realization that challenges are temporary while personal achievements last a lifetime.

“Great unit leaders and volunteers are essential to the success of this program. It is not surprising for us to see so many of them recognized as outstanding educators and school leaders,” said GGYA’s National Director Denise Mortimer.

“As we salute our Teacher of the Year nominees, we know we will see even more rising from our ranks. We actively look to recruit the best to lead and motivate our participants as they develop the

skills they will need to be resourceful, productive citizens and future leaders of our great nation.”