Being the best

Michael Myles wants kids and parents to be on their Best behaviour.

Myles, who works as the programme coordinator and liaison officer for at-risk youth, has brought the training of the Behaviour Education Support Team to Cayman through the Education Ministry.

The concept of Best is to have Myles work in partnership with schools within the framework of inclusion support services.

“For the past 10 years I’ve been saying this,” Myles said. “You cannot want to start rehabilitation at 13 or 14 years old when at five, we knew that those kids would be the problem kids.”

This multi-disciplinary team will work with children, young people, their families, schools and other services promoting emotional well-being, positive mental health, behaviour and school attendance in children and young people.

The aim of Best is to identify and support those with, or at risk of, developing emotional and behaviour problems.

“In most cases, we know who these kids are,” Myles said.

One of Best’s objectives is to provide schools with access to a multi-agency support service that can provide individual and family input as necessary to children and young people showing signs of emotional or behaviour problems, or who are at risk of developing such problems.

“I’m saying, let us, as professional agencies, sit around the table and deal with the family all together and let us plan,” he said. “DCFS, schools, counsellors, RCIPS, family support – one strategy.”

Best also supports and enables schools in developing their range of strategies for promoting emotional well being, positive behaviour and attendance, and Best works with school staff and other professionals to develop their skills and confidence in managing behaviour and attendance.

“We’ve been doing this plan in Cayman, but not regularly, and we usually act when chaos happens,” he said. “We don’t have to wait until chaos happens for us to act. We can solve a lot of problems earlier if we just act.”

A goal of Best is to ensure families and children have access to emotional, behaviour or attendance needs have access to ongoing support, either by Best members or where appropriate more specialist agencies.

“Parents might not know about the resources to help them,” he said. “Now they do.”

He shall overcome

Take one Caymanian boy; achild of a single parent, always in between different homes, different relatives, aunts, uncles.

“It was never a structured home. Never dependable,” he said. “Various times I’d be in a room by myself. For instance, I slept in the street when I was seven years old underneath a tree.”

He thinks back now and wonders where everyone was, why he wasn’t being looked after.

This boy always got good grades from middle school to secondary school, but he had behavioural problems – he would get expelled from school.

This boy went to live in on Cayman Brac for a stint, but wanted to get back to Grand Cayman. He even stole a boat at 13 to get back to the big island.

He got expelled again from school.

He ended up in a programme called Cayman Island Marine Institute

for children coming from dysfunctional families, or products of abuse or other problems.

There, he met Michael Myles.

“Him and I would have long talks about what’s next, what do you want to do,” Myles said. “And there was always this contrast with him and the others.”

Myles became one of his supporters. He helped set him up with a job with the fire department, which he soon resigned from for disciplinary reasons.

He ended up hanging out on West Bay Road around tourists and became interested in expatriate women.

“I saw a different lifestyle,” he said, and he wanted that lifestyle.

He started dating a girl named Jenny. He met her family. Showed them around the islands. He even spent Christmas in Ohio with them.

“I think that Christmas was a changing point for myself,” he said. “I had such an emotional effect on me. Christmas presents… they had stockings, names on them.

“Seeing that lifestyle, seeing that support, the father and mother and three kids and all that stuff – this is what I wanted,” he said.

He used this as motivation to follow his dreams. He started modelling, and even became Mr. Cayman. He travelled the world.

He still ran into some troubles with the law, still had his share of missteps. He ended up in jail for a stretch. That was a low point.

But he bounced back stronger than ever. He overcame all of the obstacles of his youth, his family, his situation in life, and brought his talents to TV.

He now works as an on-camera reporter for Cayman 27 news. He has the unique talent to cover light feature stories and crime scenes alike because of his past – because of what he’s seen and who he is.

His name is Kenneth Bryan. And he is a successful father, husband, Caymanian man with confidence, charisma and a bright future.

Quite simply, he overcame.

Now, he has a message for parents and the government.

“I think there should be more laws to prosecute parents who are negligent. Period,” he said. “The reason why the kids are being lost today is because the parents don’t care. And they’re not brave enough to say, you know what, ‘I’m not doing it right. Can someone help me?’”

After-school programmes

Myles has also worked to develop extended after-school programmes for secondary schools.

The specific aims of this programme are to support the continued development of students self-esteem and confidence, to reduce students negative involvement in negative activities between 3pm and 5.30pm, increase positive socialization while enhancing sports skills and reduce rates of obesity and other illness caused by lack of physical activity.

“These kids are going from a primary school setting where they’re around a couple hundred other kids, and when they jump to the secondary schools, they’re now in school with maybe 1,200 kids,” Myles said.

According to Myles, research and experience says that involvement in after-school activities can be a powerful and effective factor in reducing at-risk behaviours.

And while the intention of this after-school programme is to keep children safely off the road and engaged in wholesome activities, it is also intended to bring awareness, introduce discipline, confidence and self-esteem, while breaking the cycle of what is now accepted to be the norm – non-completion of homework assignments, no assistance with homework assignments in the home, no social skills or discipline, literacy and numeracy shortcomings, teenage pregnancies and school drop outs.

“We can save so many kids,” he said. “I have parents that are leaving kids in the schools until 5 or 6pm. But it’s really not the teacher’s responsibility to stay that long. And all the kids are doing is just sitting there and waiting for hours.

“What if something happens? Do we need to react when something awful happens? Or can we fix it before it happens? If we can prevent that, that’s what I’m all about.”

Myles expects a total of roughly 400 students from secondary schools will get involved with the various activities, which include boys and girls basketball, netball, cricket, football, track & field, boxing, martial arts and swimming.

Parents are expected to complete a registration form and be involved – open communication between the coaches and teachers involved and parents is expected as well.

And Myles is always looking for private support through sponsorships, for both Best strategies and the after-school programmes.

“All I’ve been saying to donors is, ‘tell me which side of the spectrum you want to pay for’,” he said. “Either you’re going to pay $60,000 to house one of these kids in Northward prison later, or give me $2,000 now to sponsor a child.”

After-school in action

One family that has already benefitted from the after-school programme is Elaine Whorms and her daughter Jordan.

“I have five children and having something for her to do in the evening is great,” Whorms said.

Jordan brought home all the proper forms and was signed up for the swimming programme

, which is held at Seven Mile public beach every Monday and Thursday.

“This is a programme getting kids involved in after-school activities so they’re not out there walking the streets, they’re generating their energy through sports, like swimming,” said Swim Trim swim and fitness coach Adam Geoghegan.

Jordan used to come home after school and go on the Internet, or she’d watch television for endless hours, getting nothing of value done. Now she’s in the water, improving her swimming skills.

“They’re teaching us various kinds of swimming – freestyle, breast stroke and back stroke,” Jordan said. She added that she loves the fun and exercise, and she’s meeting new friends.

“One of things that the swim coach has already said is that even in the first week and a half, he’s seeing improvements,” Myles said.

Myles maintains constant communication between organisers and parents.

“I love that,” Whorms said. “I can just text who’s in charge of the programme and she can tell me that Jordan’s on the bus. That’s what I’m really enjoying.”

Myles said that the support of the ministries has been invaluable for the programmes.

“Minister Anglin and Minister Scotland have been supportive from the start,” he said. “I thank them very much for their help.”