The “I AM BELIZE” Scholarship Programme was established in October of 2010 with the goal of seeking to empower people and communities to enable them to become “conscious architects of their own future”. The objective is to provide students with a full scholarship which includes: tuition, uniforms and books for their four years of high school. So, at the start of the new academic school year 2014/15, there were thirty-one students. These students are from various high schools: Wesley College, Anglican Cathedral College, Edward P. Yorke High School, Gwen Lizarraga High School, Maud Williams High School, St. John’s College, Nazarene High School, Ladyville Technical High School, and Canaan S. D. A. High School. There are twenty fourth formers, ten third formers, and one second former.
Apart from providing the necessities for school, RESTORE Belize has adopted a wholistic approach this new academic year 2014/15. Therefore, they conduct home visits as necessary and indulge the students to become active in the “I AM BELIZE” Scholarship Club. So, during this academic school year, they are working on strengthening the social support being provided to students and their families. RESTORE Belize’s social workers, Senior Programme Officer, and School Liaison Officer are visiting the students at home. These social workers provide valuable information on how to improve support to the family and child through counseling, mentorship, or by helping them to sign onto the social safety net provided by the Human Services Department. Also, a meeting was held in August with the scholarship recipients and his/ her parent in order to inform them about the new requirements for the new academic year as well as to have them sign an agreement.
Whereas, with the club meeting, it restarted in November. RESTORE Belize’s School Liaison Officer provides the logistical services, like coordinating venue, snacks and transportation for students. Mr. Joseph ‘Stamp’ Romero, Creative Arts Development Officer at the Institute of Creative Arts and well known playwright and dance instructor ( http://www.restorebelize.gov.bz/index.php/resources/video-gallery/youtubegallery?videoid=VpU_xD13GKk ) initiated and continues to do a series of sessions on the art of drama. Letters of reminder are sent to each school and parents are called every week.
Furthermore, the relationship with the schools has been profitable. In September of 2014, RESTORE Belize facilitated a meeting with the vice principals in charge of discipline and counselors of all schools in the program. The objective of this meeting was to report on progress in addressing the recommendations made at the previous meeting held in May of 2014. Also, they reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding in order to enable RESTORE Belize to garner the cooperation of the schools primarily for attendance at scholarship club meetings, tutoring sessions, and to be informed in the case of the decision to mete out severe disciplinary action. Besides this, the School Liaison Officer regularly visits the schools and collect student’s report card. She had spoken to the administrator responsible for discipline and she received positive feedback from most administrators.
Consequently, in October there was an Award Ceremony held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina in honour of students who had performed well the previous academic year 2013/14. The event was also attended by members of the Belize Natural Energy Charitable Trust, scholarship recipients and their parent, representatives from high schools, and RESTORE Belize’s staff.
A number of students were recognized and rewarded for honour role, outstanding performance, most improved, most dedicated, most persevering, and best all-arounder. Also, one parent delivered an appreciation speech. Sadly, this parent passed away a couple days after. Nevertheless, the particular student was recognized for being on honour role that night and is motivated to aim for the highest as he approaches graduation this June. Notably, music was provided by the astounding Pandemonium Steel Band which consists of one of the scholarship recipients.
Moreover, RESTORE Belize has engaged the students into one of their other programmes, the Youth Mentorship Programme. A meeting was held in December to introduce new mentors. When the Mentorship Programme began it comprised of solely male students and mentors since gang violence and Male Social Exclusion are more prominent. However, their second cohort consists of both female and male mentees and mentors. The ultimate goal of their Mentorship Program is for their mentors to coach the students to a successful high school completion. These mentors help to improve their mentees’ self-esteem, develop self-confidence, help them focus, broaden their perspective, foster hope for a successful transition into adulthood, among other important things, but most especially, being a positive role model in their lives.
With all that said, sincere thanks is given to the Belize Natural Energy Charitable Trust for its continuous support, RESTORE Belize’s Director, Ms. Mary Vasquez for her continued advice, guidance and support for the Scholarship Program, as well as Mr. Roger Bradley (Senior Programme Officer), Ms. Judith Enriquez (School Liaison Officer), Ms. Marie Munoz (Public Education Officer), and their supportive staff at RESTORE Belize.