The FOCUS initiative was hailed as a factory for the country’s educational pioneers by Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald.
Finding out more about the eight-year school enrichment programme run by the Lyford Cay Foundation – which recruits fourth grade students from the northwestern district of New Providence and sets them on a path to college and career success through weekend and summer classes – Minister Fitzgerald met what he called the future leaders of the country.
“As a small and young nation, we need to have our populace educated,” he said. “In terms of national developmental programmes, I can tell you that the FOCUS programme is unique and I am excited about it. I think this is the biggest and most critically important initiative that is going on in this country today.”
“I always say that education is a great equaliser – no matter their background or colour or religion, what counts is what you put in and focus on,” he said. “FOCUS has given these kids the confidence that if they study hard and go off to college and do well, that the opportunity will be afforded to them to follow their dreams.”
Touring the five classes taking place at the College of The Bahamas campus, Mr Fitzgerald met 70 fourth, fifth and sixth graders taking part in the ground-breaking FOCUS (Forward and Onward to College. Upward to Success) curriculum. The vast majority of them will become the first in their families to attend college.
After enjoying in-class demonstrations about character development – the topic of the day – the m�inister encouraged the pupils to stay committed to excellence in everything that they do.
“You all have a very unique opportunity here and it will prepare you in life for what you want to be,” he said. “Make a success of yourself in everything that you do. You are the pioneers of this programme. You have a responsibility on your shoulders to be a success.
“Like the programme name says, continue to focus on your path, no matter the distractions and detractors, so you can contribute to building this great country of ours. Have good manners, stay focused on your goals, and the sky will be your limit.”
The students were excited to share their dreams with Mr Fitzgerald – including their plans for forging career paths in medicine, education, law, politics and the arts – while finding out more about his life and job responsibilities.
“He talked to us about his childhood and what it’s like to be at the Ministry of Education,” said FOCUS student Elmoor Thompson. “It’s important for him to see us because you need to learn about our programme. He told us to study hard and focus on our work. Then if I keep studying I could be him.”
With a rousing performance of their daily rally, which encourages the students to keep striving for success, they marked the end of what the minister deemed a “very inspiring visit to an incredible programme”.
As FOCUS prepares to take on 50 additional students this summer, its long-term effects are already being seen: a number of its sixth grade students have been nominated for prefect positions in their schools, and three are finalists for the Primary School Student of the Year Award.
Such exceptional results come from FOCUS’s unique curriculum, said Lyford Cay Foundation Chairman Manuel J Cutillas, who thanked the minister for his visit and encouragement.
“His support is essential for a programme like this,” said Mr Cutillas. “We wanted him to see firsthand how the programme works and how enthusiastic the kids and teachers are. The children felt extremely happy to see such an important person come and talk with them and allow them to ask questions. We put a tremendous amount of work into this programme, and it is a very important tool in the Lyford Cay Foundation’s effort to help improve education in the country.”