From the Streets to Success; 20 Lives Changed by Youth Success Project Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 01 August 2013 00:00

Graduates of the Youth Success ProgramTwenty young men from the Southside of Belize City completed the Southside Youth Success Project’s (SYSP) apprenticeship program and the coordinators held a recognition ceremony on Friday, July 26th, to celebrate their achievement.

The Southside Youth Success Project is a program which targets fourteen to seventeen year old boys from the Southside of Belize City, who are at risk of being influenced by gang activities and recruited by street gangs. Sandra McClaren is the Coordinator of Southside Youth Success Project. She says the group of twenty young men that graduated on Friday is the second intake to successfully complete the program. The program is a five-month course sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with the Department of Youth Services.

 During the first three months, the boys report to the SYSP Center where the focus is on literacy improvement, skills training and lifestyle education. The boys are visited by various guest speakers from the community who speak to them about making a positive impact in society. One such visitor was Hon. Herman Longsworth, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. Longsworth encouraged the youths to take advantage of the program and better their lives. He also gave each of them sports shorts for the recreational activities that took place during the program. During the final two months of the program, the youths report to different business establishments that support SYSP. The young men work as apprentices and develop their skills even further.

Twenty-five started the program and five did not finish. Four did not complete the program because their family moved out of the city. One did not finish because he was remanded to prison for a crime he committed before entering the program. Many more would have dropped out of the program if the SYSP team was not so effective in monitoring its participants. One graduate said, “Many days, I felt like not going and a couple days I bang it but Miss Sandra send for me at my house.” McClaren remembers one time her team even went to the seaside for one of the participants “We won’t allow them to fail.” Developing relationships with the participants’ parents was crucial to the success of the program. McClaren said a few days after the program started, a meeting was held for parents and only two showed up. The team decided to go out and visit the parents at their homes to build better relationships. That strategy was successful as more than ninety percent of parents showed up at subsequent meetings.

Many of the young men that completed the program have been already offered jobs. Some will return to the formal education system and others will enter more advanced skills training programs. There is another group of twenty-five young men set to begin the program. The five- month program might not change the young men’s lives but it has changed their mindset. McClaren says, “The most fulfilling part of the program is seeing young men rise to another level and wanting to do something positive with their lives.” Graduates of the program will forever be a part of SYSP and are expected to visit the center regularly.