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Jul 1, 2004

34 youths graduate from Cadet Corps

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We have not covered many graduations this season, but the one that took place this morning at the Belize City Centre was kind of special. News 5′s Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Proud parents watched from the sidelines as thirty-four young men took centre stage at the fifth graduation of students from the National Youth Cadet Service Corps.

They are called ?Challengers?, a fitting name for a group of young men, who before taking part in the programme, were headed in the wrong direction. Manager of the Youth Cadet Service Corps, retired Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Heusner, says most of the graduates were young men with behavioural problems.

Lt. Col. Stephen Heusner, Manager, Cadet Service Corps.

?Most of them are, most of them are. You find that a lot of them would either dropped out of school, they were giving their parents a lot of problems, they staying up late, they were talking back to their parents. Some of them actually formed little gangs around Belize and get themselves into some sort of trouble. They have not reached that point where they have to get into the criminal justice system, but if they continued in that path they will definitely end up there. And so we try to target them before that happens and put them into the programme.?

The cadets came from all six districts and the programme gave them academic and vocational training, as well as a chance to turn their lives around. Fifteen year old Juan Mejia says that the ten months in boot camp have laid the foundation he needs.

Juan Mejia

?Yes sir, because it teach me discipline and how to respect to others and how to behave myself and other stuff.?

Mejia says he will now enrol in the Centre for Employment Training to complete a course in electrical engineering. And when he becomes of age in a couple of years, will apply to join the police. The boys say they are grateful for the programme that has given them a chance to become productive citizens.

Juan Mejia

?It was good because I had lot of fun. We go play football, we go dah river go have fun, and it was good.?

Austin Sutherland

?It was good, but then the only part of it that I did not like was when you got to run, but then that is the best part because then you practise, your muscle get bigger, and you learn from it. You have to get up early in the morning about four forty-five to go and run three miles.?

Patrick Jones

?Now you say you don?t like to run, but do you know that policemen have to run??

Austin Sutherland

(Laughs) ?Yeah.?

But Sutherland admits that his dream of one day becoming a policeman would have been sidetracked if not for the intervention of his mother.

Austin Sutherland

?I wanted to graduate long time because I go to school, but then when I went to school, my father didn?t want me to go to school so he take me to his house, let me stay with him. So my mother came and said that how they got somewhere better for me to stay at the National Youth Cadet Service Corps, so I could learn something out of it. So when I grow up they might help me or find something for me to do to make my life better.?

Sutherland then stuns his mother with this out of character behaviour that brought the proud parent to the brink of tears.

Austin Sutherland

?I would like to give an apology to my mom. Give she an apology for behaving bad and rude. So I can be at somewhere when I get older later in life, I can be someone she would like me to be.?

Linda Sutherland, Austin?s Mother

?He used to be very disobedient to me and that?s why he entered the programme. But after he continue and finishing now, he change, so that is the apology he given back to me.?

Patrick Jones

?Are you happy about that??

Linda Sutherland

?I am more than happy of it and I hope that he will continue his betterment.?

Patrick Jones, for News Five.

Heusner says that forty-eight cadets started the programme, but during the year, those who could not keep up, dropped out, while others decided that the disciplined life was not for them and walked away. The average age of the graduates is fifteen.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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