In the computer lab on Aug. 17 at the Youth Empowerment Project, students were practising their typing speed. In the kitchen, another group was learning how to use measuring cups to make cupcakes. In the art studio, kids were experimenting with different brushes and their fingers to make delicate roses on their papers. Outside on the court, teams practised how to coordinate for a game of dodgeball.
The wide-ranging activities offered during the summer programme at YEP’s Fat Hogs Bay centre are meant to hone lifelong skills and help prepare attendees for the upcoming school year, said YEP Director of Administration Vincia Fahie. The summer programme is nearing its end for the year, and Ms. Fahie said instructors’ main goal is for the approximately 100 participants to have gleaned a basic understanding of their areas of interest from YEP’s 28 subject offerings.
In recent years, the organisation has been working to expand its curriculum, and now a new location is in the works as well, according to Ms. Fahie.
“We have good news,” she told the Beacon. “After 18 years of trying, we are actually going to have a YEP building in Virgin Gorda next year.”
She credited YEP Executive Director Stacy “Buddha” Mather — who was recently elected as an at-large representative in the House of Assembly — with working hard over the past few years to help secure land and plans for the new building.
In the meantime, instructors have continued their work at the Fat Hogs Bay-based facility, bringing in experts in the community to teach students new skills.
On Aug. 17, instructor Kimon Lewis led his morning group as they played a computer game where they competed for the fastest typing times. He said the kids also explore computer science skills like basic coding throughout the summer. In the process, they utilise programmes like Kahoot for game-based learning, and they probe the mechanics behind websites and discuss potential career opportunities in the field.
In the nearby art studio, Camique Osborne, known to the students as “Miss O,” dimmed the lights and played calming music as the young artists painted flower pots in yellow, blue and red. She said students have enjoyed trying a variety of projects this year, including making soap and cooking their own strawberry applesauce.
Student Tiffany Herbert said she especially enjoys painting and seeing everyone’s styles. Outside on the court, she has enjoyed learning more about volleyball and said she hopes to one day pursue a career in track and field.
YEP is a privately funded programme that has supported ages 8 to 15 in pursuing their interests since 2004. Ms. Fahie said the programme hopes to expand to Road Town and more sister islands in the near future, though finding the right locations has proved to be a challenge.
Virgin Gorda has been an area of interest for a long time, but she said finding land was the main difficulty.
Currently, she said, there are about 50 children on YEP’s active waiting list. Though community members offer plenty of staffing support, the programme is limited by building space.
“Right now, our ratio is about 15 to one based on the room sizes,” she said. “Of course, if the building were larger, we would be able to accommodate more.”
YEP’s halls are adorned with memories from students who have passed through the programmes, with each getting an opportunity to sign their name directly on the walls. Groups from various years smile from their photo frames, and a coveted “Ant-Man” movie poster signed by actor Paul Rudd — who recently paid a visit — hangs in a place of honour.
As YEP works to expand its programme offerings, Ms. Fahie said instructors are particularly proud of the “Beyond the Plate” programme recently added to the roster. It focuses on skills like table setting and cooking, which can be a helpful starting point for a young person interested in a career in the culinary arts, she said.
To encourage teambuilding skills, four different houses compete for points throughout the summer in hopes of winning the “YEP Summer Champs” cup, Ms. Fahie explained.
Students can gain points by exhibiting good behaviour. They can also lose points for bullying, profanity, or other misconduct.
While the turquoise team was leading Aug. 17, the points were close.
Student Anijah McMaster said she’s been participating in YEP for years and looks forward to the field trips and other opportunities it affords her.
Above all, she said it’s important to “come to have fun and be friendly.”