Barbados Youth Service graduate, Dale Rowe, as he delivered the valedictory address at the Departments 2008 intake graduation, on Saturday at the Sanctuary Empowerment Centre.

Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, has vowed to find the Barbados Youth Service (BYS) a new home and continue to develop its programme so that it can better serve more young people.

Dr. Byer Suckoo made this assertion last Saturday, while delivering the feature address at the graduation ceremony of the 2008 intake of the BYS at the Sanctuary Empowerment Centre, Country Road, St. Michael.??

While thanking the Barbados Defence Force for accommodating the programme at its Paragon Base in Christ Church, she said:" the "Ministry is aware of your constraints and we are trying to address them… The Ministry is to look at sites where we can possibly build a new home for the Youth Service… There is [also] scope for taking elements of this programme to the community, as there are more young people out there needing us than we could ever accommodate in one space."

Dr. Byer Suckoo also took the opportunity to encourage the trainees to continue to succeed against the odds.?? "Those odds may be lack of skills, poor educational level, poverty in the family, poor health, unstable home environment, trouble with the law, history of drugs, or unsupportive friends… Because of you, many more parents would be willing to get their children involved.?? More entities will be willing to support the program…. Your success is contagious, in a good way," the Youth Minister noted.

In his valedictory address, graduate, Dale Rowe, saw the BYS as vital for youth development and called on the Ministry to implement measures to allow the program to reach its full potential.?? "As the different phases of the program unfolded, I recognise that this program is one that affords young people an opportunity to develop beyond their own expectations," he said.

One year ago, Mr. Rowe was sent to the BYS by the Courts.?? "I remember Magistrate Faith Marshall-Harris saying that I should have been remanded at Dodds. You see I was a gangster, a real bad boy, sometimes a rebel and a hustler.?? My lifestyle was full of violence, anger, drugs and partying…but I finally ended up before the Court," he disclosed.??

The valedictorian admitted that during the 13 weeks of residential camp he struggled with handling the intense drills and instructions.?? "I could not understand why I had to be punished with this activity.?? Then it made sense.?? With some help from my counselor Ms. Thomas, and other members of staff, I started to see beyond what I?? thought was punishment.?? I soon realised that I responded more quickly to orders and I started to focus…. I became competitive, eager and alert," the trainee said.

According to Mr. Rowe, through the BYS, he not only gained new friends and a better outlook on life, but he was also prepared by its staff to sit Caribbean Examination Council examinations in 2010, a feat he considered "out of reach" while attending secondary school.?? He admitted his new goal was to become a lawyer.??

A number of awards were presented to the trainees.?? The Sports Award went to Armando Lashley for football, the Community Service Award was given to Dale Rowe, while Marlon Clarke won a prize for Academics at the functional level. Nicholas Maynard and Dairon Butcher, who interned at the Turtle Beach Resort and the Ministry of Transport and Works, respectively, received the Public and Private Sector Awards for high standard of efficiency while on job attachment.

BYS was established to create an outlet for positive activity and development among Barbadian youth between the ages of 16 and 22. ??The multi-disciplinary facility aims to promote self-reliance, creativity and a sense of community, through a wide range of programmes.

Every September, the one-year training programme has an intake of approximately 100 young persons.

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