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Jun 21, 2018

22 Young Graduates from Belize Youth Challenge Program

Twenty-two young men graduated this morning as cadets of the Belize Youth Challenge Programme. They represent the first intakes of the programme which started last October.  The young men honed their skills in leadership and teamwork, learnt discipline and endured arduous training. The programme is designed to engage the youths and keep them away from violence and the hands of the gangs. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

A graduation ceremony was held today at the ITVET Compound in Belize City for a group of twenty-two young men who eight months ago took on the Belize Youth Challenge. The programme taught them about endurance and discipline and is modeled from a similar programme at the Louisiana National Guard in the U.S.  The residential phase of the training saw the youth reside at the rehabilitation facility at mile twenty-one on the George Price Highway where they attended academic classes and were exposed to physical training and drills.

 

Anthony Castillo

Anthony Castillo, Commandant, BYC

“During the first two weeks, the challengers undergo the behavior modification aspect of the training. Here is where a number of the challengers struggled with the discipline and rigors of physical training. We lost quite a few of our cadets during this phase. During the initial phase of this training the cadre of soldiers had to exercise great restraint in order to avoid becoming confrontational or physical wit the challengers. The hands-on policy was in full effect. Unfortunately though, the challengers who insisted and attempted to engage and committing gross act of deviance had to be released from the programme. There were also those who are not yet prepared to be away from family and friends for extended period; these had asked for voluntary release.”

 

The Department of Youth Service, the Health Department, the Community Policing Unit, the National Drug Abuse Control Council and the Department of Education partnered with the programme to engage the participating youths—four of which sat the P.S.E. and were awarded subsidies to pursue high school education. Two are also seeking scholarships to attend sixth form and two others have been accepted into the voluntary element of the B.D.F. at Militia Hall in Belize City. The Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation teamed up with the Ministry of National Security to organize this initiative.

 

Anthony Boots Martinez

Anthony Boots Martinez, Minister of Human Development, Social Transformation & Poverty Alleviation

“Over the years, we have lost too many of our young men to gun violence, the drug trade and at prison and we are quite cognizant of the fact that we must do a better job of keeping our young people engaged and offer them every opportunity for development. You see gone are the days in which we approach engaging our youth with a forceful and punitive hand. Programmes that give our young people an opportunity to re-socialize towards a productive has yield much better results in the longer run. The Belize Youth Challenge is one of those promising programmes.”

 

Minister John Saldivar says that the graduating group will be able to access any of the three units that fall under the Ministry of National Security.

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“The Belize Coastguard is at your beck and call, the Belize Defence Force and the Police Department for any of you that wish to join those ranks. I also want to start off this morning by from my point of view admitting some uncomfortable truths that would reflect greatly on where we are today with this Youth Challenge Programme.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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