Ronald Forbes has captured the hearts of a nation on the track. Now he is looking to motivate Cayman’s youth in the wake of the recent crime surge.
The Cayman Islands suffered a black eye with the string of five murders over nine days last month. All of the victims were younger than 29-years-old and the majority of cases were gang-style killings.
Forbes, 26, is in the midst of a three-week tour around the various public schools in the Cayman Islands. He has already spoken at eight primary schools on Grand Cayman and capped off last week’s itinerary with four separate stops at John Gray High School. He also made a stop at the Lighthouse School.
The national track and field hero, who will represent Cayman at the 2012 Olympic Games in the 110 metre hurdles, spoke to a crowd of some 100 students in Wahoo House (an inter-school grouping for students) on Friday. His message was about the power of choice and the role of sports in a positive lifestyle.
“Use the power of choice, it can be rewarding or bad,” Forbes said. “Be careful of peer pressure. Please try to make the right decisions. If it’s not right don’t do it.
“If you take up a sport continue to do it,” he said. “For those of you that have not, I encourage you to do so. I hated to run in year nine, but sports have led me to many positives. I’ve met many famous people like Kobe Bryant, David Beckham and Usain Bolt and I’ve represented Cayman at the Olympics.”
By and large, most of the youngsters were receptive to Forbes’ message. Among those inspired was George Town native Edward Bodden. A Year 10 student, Bodden said Forbes has credibility due to his sporting accomplishments.
“Tennis, cricket and basketball are my sports,” Bodden, 14, said. “I think he’s a good inspiration to youth like me. He is about never giving up and his message is important with all that’s going on.
“I know sports are very good,” he said. “They show it’s possible to succeed at something in life. With Ronald, people would love to be where he is today. He’s been to the top and competed against the best in the world.”
Forbes, who is from North Side, is expected to wrap up his speaking engagements this week. The highlight will be his long-awaited stop in Cayman Brac, where he has never been before. He will be speaking at four of the main educational institutions in West End, Creek and Spot Bay primary school along with the Layman Scott High School.
Among the educators impressed with Forbes and his message on Grand Cayman were John Gray Life skills teacher Glenn Whewell.
“It was excellent because it shows the kids that they can aspire to that level,” Whewell said. “They see that they can achieve something. It should be noted that he is a former student here and John Gray needs people like him to generate positive coverage.”
Forbes’ speaking tour comes after a successful summer. His claim to fame was reaching the Men’s 110m hurdles semifinals at the 2011 International Association of Athletics Federation World Championship in Daegu, South Korea.