Whether it’s a ninth grader in search of a club for teens with highly varied aspirations and capabilities or a high school senior looking to grow as an individual and as a leader, the Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA) is helping young people start the school year off right, offering a programme with an exceptional track record of placing youths on a path to success.

“I think every student and their family want to start the school year off on a positive note. One way to do that is to get our young people involved in extracurricular activities,” said Denise Mortimer, national director of GGYA, a non-formal programme used by organizations and agencies concerned with the development of young people.

“For high school and college students, this is the time in your life when you’re figuring out what you are interested in. It’s crucial to get involved and see what awakens a passion in you.”

Participants cycle for their physical recreation requirement.

GGYA is the local affiliate of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award programme, the world’s leading youth achievement award. Its British connection has seen members of the Royal Family visit The Bahamas seven times since 1990, to connect with GGYA participants and present young Bahamians with their Gold Award.

Through GGYA, participants 14 to 24-years-old create a personal programme of activities focused on four components: helping others, improving fitness, gaining skills and exploring the community around them through hiking expeditions and explorations.

At the highest level, Gold, there is a residential community project – a shared activity completed away from home with people not previously known to each other.

In small groups, GGYA participants at C V Bethel get the opportunity to meet with His Royal Highness, Prince Edward during his visit to The Bahamas in 2016.

“For those young people who play sports at their school, help at church, or sing in a choir, those extra-curricular activities provide the framework for an individual to receive an Award, once they have logged minimum time requirements and successfully completed  practice and qualifying hiking expeditions,” explained Ms Mortimer.

“GGYA allows young people to pursue current interests and passions and maybe even find ones they didn’t know they had. Some choose a mix of activities that are familiar. Others use GGYA as an opportunity to zap themselves out of their comfort zone.”

The difference between the programme’s three stages – Bronze, Silver and Gold – is the minimum length of time it takes to complete each, the difficulty level and the minimum age one could begin.

Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex, peruses poster boards of GGYA participants in Abaco in 2016.

“In this important period in a high schoolers life you want to see them develop confidence, autonomy away from their parents and guardians, learn how to peacefully resolve conflicts that creep up in a group setting as well as gain problem solving skills,” said Ms Mortimer, a former health and physical education teacher in the public and private school systems.

“These are just a few of the positive attributes hundreds off our GGYA  participants gain every year, helping to polish off applications for universities and jobs.”

Ms Mortimer said GGYA’s goal is to be the programme of choice for young people throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

GGYA participants perfect their skill, beating the goatskin drums.

With 56 registered units nationwide, very few youth organizations could boast of GGYA’s accomplishment of establishing units not only in New Providence and  Grand Bahama but also Abaco, Andros, Berry Islands, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Inagua and Long Island.

“We work hard to be the programme of choice for young people in The Bahamas. We work closely with public and private schools, tertiary institutions, community groups as well as youth organizations like the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s Rangers, the Boys’ Brigade and others to bring out the best in our nation’s youth,” said Ms  Mortimer.

“It’s only by working together that we can set young people on a path to becoming a productive and prosperous citizen.”