Education councilor Barbara Conolly has urged a more concerted effort to help guide Cayman’s students on the path to make positive contributions to society.
Conolly made the call as she addressed the opening of the YMCA’s 5th Annual Leaders for Youth Conference at St Ignatius Hall over the weekend.
“We recognise that if our children are to make a positive contribution to our society, they will need to be well-rounded individuals who are capable of creative and critical thought,” she said. “To achieve this, we will need teachers, parents and other members of the wider community to pull together to support our children’s development and guide them into becoming productive citizens.”
Conolly said the YMCA-operated extended after-school programme has been an “excellent example of how the convergence of public and private entities can make a meaningful impact on society”.
She said the programme, which was contracted to YMCA in 2015, has made an impact on students and now serves 15 schools. It offers 30 activities at nine sites.
Conolly urged all students to grasp the opportunities offered under the Extended After-School Programme.
“I want to encourage more of our students to be a part of this programme because this teaches so much in terms of their organisational skills. Some of our students have special needs, and [the programme focusses] on that as well. It teaches our students that they have to be more disciplined in terms of their behaviour – that is another value that this programme,” she said.
YMCA CEO Gregory Smith welcomed Conolly’s comments.
He said a lot of effort goes into the programmes, especially training of volunteers.
Smith said the leadership conference focusses on that training.
“This is our opportunity to bring all of our staff and volunteers from throughout the island, and also throughout the region to learn, to fellowship, to get inspired about the work that we do with our youth in the community,” he said.
The theme of the conference was ‘All aboard’ and Smith said the ship theme was connected to the idea of navigating the call of leadership.
“As we look around and we see there are many challenges throughout our community and throughout the world. And so, the theme is just a reminder that sometimes the seas can be rough, but we have to be well trained and well prepared to do the work that we’re called to do with our youth and in the most challenging of seas,” Smith added.
For volunteer-in-training Andon Hislop, being involved in the programme has made a difference for him.
“Before, I used to always be shy … and I would never go out of my comfort zone to do things. But now, after being with the Y for about two years, I could get out of my comfort zone and do things I normally wouldn’t do, like, I would go and meet new people and make new friends,” Hislop said.
Tony Williams, YMCA board member, said the leadership conference was important to the mission of the YMCA and he hoped participants took away a message of hope and the guidance necessary to navigate the seas of life.
Extended After-School Programme statistics
– 1,300 students participate annually
– 15 schools
– 30 activities at nine sites