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Aug 31, 2000

Cadet corps graduates receive diplomas

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These days there seems to be no shortage of troubled youths in Belize and while many people freely offer advice on what should be done to help them, far fewer are involved in practical solutions. One exception is the Youth Cadet Service Corp. The corps, headquartered at twenty-one and a half miles on the Western Highway, targets boys from thirteen to seventeen years old who are unemployed, out of school and have demonstrated behavioral problems. Today, the programme hosted its “passing out” parade.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Today was the graduation ceremony for the National Youth Cadet Service Corps. It opened on November eighth, 1999 with thirty-four cadets and eighteen staff members. The institution envisions rehabilitating and training young men, so that they may become productive members of society. In the first phase of their training, the cadets participated in a six-week boot camp, which sought to instill discipline, teamwork and self esteem. The cadets also took part in physical training and foot drills and sat in classes, which taught personal development, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and first aid.

Rudolph Conorquie, Manager, Youth Cadet Service Corps

“The Cadets then participated in phase two, academic vocational training of four months. This phase was aimed at equipping the cadets with the necessary tools for reentry into society. Cadets were involved in academic subjects such as language arts, mathematics, Belizean studies, science, spiritual development, group counseling, life skills and physical education.”

The cadets took what they learned in the classroom into the business world, as phase three of the program placed them in the workforce of several companies. Mark Espat has been the Minister of Youth for the last eight months and already has made some personnel changes to enhance the ministry and this program.

Mark Espat, Minister of Youth

“We have a new director of youth, Mrs. Shawn Gill and we have a new manager up here, Mr. Rudolph Conorquie. We have tried to strengthen the management over the past few months of the youth programme. We have youth programmes going on in every district. We are discussing with the government right now, a major target youth programme that has been included in our manifesto, and we hope to get underway shortly. I think we all recognize that there are serious challenges for our young people and we all have to come together, the churches, the NGO’s, the political parties and government to do what we can to save our young people. Each one of them is valuable to us.”

For the program’s first volunteer graduates, it is now crunch time. As early as next week they will reenter school and the workplace.

George Pitts, Graduate

“When I come out, I already get place in a job site, so when I come out I have to work. Yes, this programme helps a lot, you learn discipline and that sort of thing.”

Ryan Flores, Graduate

“The way I get involved in this programme is through the Social Investment Fund office and what I need from the program is school. I already started school and that was all I needed from the program.”

Melvin Torres, Graduate

“First, before I got into the programme I was a person, not doing anything bad, except drinking, and idle about myself. I think if I was out there, I don’t know where I would be right now. I was in the programme and I got a job in the free zone. You could say the programme helped me out a lot.”

Though half of the participants in the programme dropped out along the way, there are seventeen youths who are betting that their life can now be more productive. Reporting For News Five, I am Jose Sanchez.

The Cadet Corps will expand its vocational training with forty thousand dollars worth of tools that were provided by The Basic Needs Trust Fund. It also plans to involve over two hundred and fifty youths over its next three intake sessions.

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