Much is expected of the 143 youth who graduated recently as part of the third cohort of A Ganar.

This sentiment was conveyed to them by several speakers who addressed the graduation ceremony at the Hilton Barbados Resort, where Education Minister, Ronald Jones, and officials from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Partners of the Americas were in attendance.

Barbados??? Country Coordinator for A Ganar, Ytannia Wiggins, speaking to her charges, said: ???For you youth, your hard work is about to begin. This is clearly not the last we will see of you and this is not your end.???

She was joined by Anna Barrett, the Program Officer with Partners of the Americas, the executing agency for A Ganar on the island. In reflecting on the students??? journey, Ms. Barrett said: ???In making this commitment, you have each taken steps towards changing your own lives. At A Ganar, we talk a lot about team work which extends not only to the sessions that you have gone through but into other things that we do.

???You will leave here with the skills you have acquired over the last year, your certificate, of course, and membership in an A Ganar Alumni group of thousands across Latin America and the Caribbean. You will also leave here with the continuing support of this team as you embark on your next step. This only is truly the beginning of the next phase ??? taking what you have built as you continue to change lives.???

Education Lead Specialist with the IDB, Dr. Sabine Reible Aubourg, offered pointers to the 15 and 16-year-olds. ???We know that the A Ganar program has provided you with a good foundation of skills that should help you to be better prepared for what comes next but nevertheless, rest assured the next steps will not always be easy,??? she cautioned.

She encouraged the youth to develop personal goals from an early age that could guide their pursuits, and were told to be prepared to encounter dead ends and detours but to not allow these to discourage or deter them.

???I also want to encourage you to stay curious and open and to continue to explore and learn new skills???We live today in a world that changes at an ever- increasing pace??? The ever-changing technology is demanding all of us to learn new skills and to adapt to new circumstances???

“So, it is important that you continue to develop your skills and knowledge so that you can find your place in this world??? you are not alone in this journey,??? she reassured. The IDB official further urged graduates to stay in contact with A Ganar to inform on their future accomplishments.

Meanwhile, Most Improved Participant, George Carrington, who had interned at the Hilton Barbados Resort, called on his counterparts to utilise all A Ganar skills gained. The St. Leonard???s Boys??? student said: ???Respect your environment and those around you; teamwork, as young people we are all one team let us help each other; communication, let???s talk it out, it doesn???t always have to end in violence; discipline will help us to reach our goals.

???Focus on results – when you start something don???t give up, always finish it; self-improvement, there is never an end to improvement there is always more knowledge, skill and achievement to be gained, from here it will get better.???

A Ganar is the Spanish word for ???to win??? or ???to earn???. The A Ganar program was created 10 years ago out of a powerful idea from Brazilian soccer player, Pele, and former IDB President, Enrique V. Iglesias, to use soccer as a vehicle to channel the energy and passion of youth to help them develop life skills and find a way to maximise their full potential and to become productive citizens.

In 2013, when the IDB and Government worked on its design as part of the Skills For The Future Program, it was decided to integrate the A Ganar program into the loan and to pilot it in Barbados. Since its roll out in 2013, it has expanded from an initiative that started in two secondary schools to a program that is currently being implemented in nine institutions and has worked with at least 491 students.

Given its success, the Government of Barbados, the IDB and the United States Agency for International Development signed an agreement on November 20 of this year for about US $600,000 that would see the implementation of the program in three additional secondary schools, bringing the total to 12 institutions.

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