By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
HE IS known as ‘The First Gentleman of Hip Hop’, and this week Derek ‘Fonzworth Bentley’ Watkins is visiting the Bahamas to share lifestyle lessons from his latest book, “Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead” during a unique summer camp with a focus on engineering and technology.
Branding, business etiquette and professionalism were key points discussed by the BET “Lift Every Voice” host during the camp’s opening presented by STEMBoard and the Bahamas Engineering and Technology Advancement (BETA) consortium.
The day camp, which is free for participants and open to the public started on Monday and will come to a close on Friday at the College of the Bahamas.
Today, Bentley, along with his mother who co-authored the book, will host a sit-down meal with students to teach them professional dining etiquette. He will also emcee the camp’s graduation ceremony on August 1.
Bentley’s experience in the entertainment world – he is perhaps best known for being Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs’ former personal valet and assistant – is something he is often quizzed about whenever he makes guest appearances at events such as the summer camp.
However, he told Tribune Arts and Entertainment that participants in the camp, which included students from grades seven to nine, were more focused on what he had to say about science and technology.
The students also found the tidbits he shared from his book intriguing.
“One of the terms all of the young people know is this term called swagger or swag, and so what my book really does is give a formula so that people get a true understanding of what swagger is, and I define swagger as manners, plus confidence, plus style. It does not matter how stylish you are, because if you are rude, nobody wants to be around you, and if you are mannerly and confident, but do not know how to dress appropriately for the occasion, you won’t even gain entry into the game,” he said.
“I went pretty deep with the philosophy behind the book, but I do it with personal fun stories that the kids laugh at and think are really fun. I have worked with a lot of celebrities and I really bring in a high level of etiquette.”
The BETA Camp is designed to introduce Bahamian students to fundamental science and math skills while helping them build a strong foundation in engineering. With generous support from Rocket Fuel’s “Gives Back”, a philanthropic programme, BETA Camp is doing its share to help address a dire need in the Bahamas for educational intervention through hands-on learning and exposure in chemical and biochemical engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, computer science and web development.
In an effort to carry out this long-time endeavour, Aisha Bowe, co-founder and CEO of STEMboard, spearheaded initiatives to get the camp off the ground for the first time this year.
Ms Bowe founded STEMboard together with John Martellaro. The organisation uses technological innovation and mentorship to provide underserved students with the real world tools they need to succeed in a competitive global marketplace.
During an awards show held oversees last year, Ms Bowe connected with Bentley and found out he had a similar passion for science and technology, having studied biology at the undergraduate level and worked at a genetics lab.
“We wanted to do something in the Bahamas for a long time and BETA is a group of Bahamian engineers who came together this year officially to give back. We all had those conversations about what we wanted to do in the Bahamas and we decided to band together. We wanted to expose the students to engineering careers, because a lot of students do not know what engineering is all about. We wanted to put a face to engineering science and technology in the hopes that the students not only do better in high school, but that they are inspired and to go on and become engineers. So hopefully they will end up in an engineering programme at the College of the Bahamas when they are done,” she said.
“The 75 students enrolled in the camp are being taught six different streams of engineering – computer science and web development, electrical engineering, aerospace and mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering and biomedical engineering,” Aisha said.
Other persons who also spearheaded the camp’s initiatives include Trenicka Rolle, president of BETA; D’Andre Wilson-Ihejirika, vice president of BETA, and Kiwoba Allaire, founder of Rocket Fuel’s “Gives Back”.