By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
IT HAS been an eventful thirty-one and a half years working at the US Embassy in Nassau for Katherine Stewart-Gibson.
As the former public affairs specialist, she has been instrumental in coordinating programmes that have promoted education, culture, and health in the Bahamas.
Several weeks ago, Ms Gibson's career reached its peak and she bid farewell to the US Embassy. The US Charge d'Affaires John Dinkelman hosted a farewell reception at the US Ambassador's Residence, Liberty Overlook on May 18.
Former US Ambassador John Rood, was among those in attendance, including embassy staff, professional colleagues, family members and friends.
"I felt I had accomplished my mission. I had peaked a plateau and the work that I was designed to do was completed and this was the reason why I retired from the US Embassy. I am proud that I have been instrumental in promoting US/Bahamian relations through cultural and educational programmes," Ms Gibson told Tribune Woman.
At the reception Ms Gibson received many accolades for the work she has done. Her plaques serve as reminders of all the initiatives she was pivotal in executing.
"I was greeted with an outpouring of accolades and well wishes. I was truly humbled."
As the public affairs specialist, Ms Gibson was responsible for planning and coordinating educational and cultural affairs programmes.
"Each ambassador had their particular interest. It was my job also to further execute those interests working along with Bahamian audiences," Ms Gibson said.
"My accomplishments over the years were many and most rewarding. The highlight of my career was in 2009 when I was invited by the US Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, Pamalea Bridgewater, to assist with the visit to Ghana by President George Walker Bush and Laura Bush. It was an incredible opportunity for me to join US Embassy Ghana's press team for what turned out to be a most exciting and high profile three-day US Presidential visit," she told Tribune Woman.
The reading mentoring programme, Read to Lead, was another initiative Ms Gibson helped bring to fruition. The programme started at Woodcock Primary School in 2005, under the administration of US Ambassador John Rood, and expanded to many other public primary schools in 2008.
"The programme was very successful. It has been a very rewarding thing to be able to interact with young Bahamian children. This programme helped shape and positively impacted their lives. The programme worked well with collaboration from the Ministry of Education. Through this programme Bahamian children were developing a love for reading. We took the programme to all of the Family Islands," she said.
The Martin Luther King Essay Competition was reintroduced six years ago under Ms Gibson's coordination. The competition gave the winners a trip to The Martin Luther King Jr Centre for Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia.
"I had the opportunity to chaperone the competition winners on the trip to the King Centre to participate in activities and workshops. The students met Mrs King on this trip as well. They got a better understanding of the civil rights movement," she said.
Being part of the fight against breast cancer in the Bahamas was something Ms Gibson was also very passionate about. She had a family member who was diagnosed with the disease and took advantage of the opportunity to plan the breast cancer initiative. Through the programme she was able to educate Bahamian women on the disease.
"This was a tremendous experience. It was not only an opportunity for me to educate others, but also for me to learn how I could protect myself from the disease. Ever since I have been involved with the cancer committee ," she said.
Katherine credits her success over the years to her parents, the late Earle and Theodora Stewart who instilled in her and her siblings the importance of education. They also made the necessary sacrifices to ensure their children obtained a quality education, she said.
Although she has retired from the embassy, Ms Gibson said her work has not stopped. She intends to bottle all of the training and skills she acquired at the US Embassy and promote the Bahamas in other ways.
But as of now, she will enjoy the island life in the Bluff. Eleuthera, her hometown.
"I love fishing. That is the most relaxing thing for me. I love the laid back Family Island life," she said.