Former SAGHS student and one of the team leaders for this year’s programme
“First-rate” is the perfect description for the opening of the Atlantic/Ministry of Sport Leadership Symposium held at the Cascadia Hotel on April 2nd. By 9am on the first day, the Cascadia Ballroom was filled to capacity with over 300 students who were eagerly waiting to hear from the facilitators – multi World and Olympic Games medallist Ato Boldon, former Miss T&T, Miss Universe and Miss World contestant, Kenisha Thom-Selvon and Inspirational Speaker, Don La Foucade. The welcoming address was given by Chairman and event co-ordinator, Valentino Singh, who was delighted by the huge turnout of students. He extended his gratitude to all the event’s sponsors which made the staging of the event possible. Greetings were also brought by representatives from title sponsors Atlantic and Ministry of Sport. Atlantic’s CEO, Nigel Darlow, and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, both expressed their joy in being able to play a part in helping shape the lives of the country’s young leaders. The first facilitator to take to the podium was Ato Boldon. He did an exceptional job in grabbing the attention of the audience with his captivating presentation entitled ‘Conceive, Believe, Achieve’. In his speech, Boldon elaborated on some of the challenges he had to face in the early stages of building his track career. The former national sprinter revealed that he was initially discouraged by a family member to pick up athletics as a professional career. He was instead strongly advised to become a typical doctor or lawyer; a common piece of advice which many of us probably heard from our parents already. Boldon related to us: “When I was getting ready to become a professional an uncle said to me, ‘Boy you know you like to talk, you should go be a lawyer or something because this track and field thing is not for you... that whole sprinting thing is for the tall guys.’”
Boldon insisted that students should always chase after their dreams and ambitions regardless of the lack of support they may receive from the people closest to them. He then shared some advice: “When you’re coming up with a plan, you have to remember that at the end of the day it’s your plan and not everybody is going to see it with the same level of clarity that you do, and that is okay. Being in the minority and not doing everything the way everyone else is doing it, is not always the worst thing in the world. Most of the really amazing innovators of the time had to figure out a different way to do things. They had to endure the ridicule and the skepticism and the doubt, because if it’s a new concept, it’s not supposed to be familiar to everybody else.” After Boldon’s stimulating address, students were then graced with the beautiful presence of former Miss T&T, Kenisha Thom-Selvon, who taught members of the audience how to truly love and appreciate oneself. Thom-Selvon spoke from personal experience on this topic, having had to learn to love herself at an early age after being teased in school about her complexion. Who would have ever thought that a beauty queen (who has spreads in a number of regional and international magazines) would ever have to endure ridicule about her physical appearance? She went on to identify the abilities to be able to keep a positive mentality and ignore the negative opinions of envying peers, as key factors in learning to embrace oneself. “You have to learn to make decisions about yourself without the pressure of being heavily influenced by others. As young people you will soon be exposed, in one way or the other, to people’s opinions and you must be prepared to listen without acting, until you are ready to act,” the beauty queen said.
The 2006 Miss Universe contestant also advised members of the audience to take at least an hour everyday to spend time with oneself and encouraged everyone to always go the extra mile in achieving all aspirations. Last, but not least, was the very inspirational speaker, Don La Foucade who won the students over with his lyrical presentation on the ‘Purpose of Purpose’. La Foucade, who is always quick to give God all the glory, reminded us all that purpose is needed to keep us on track and motivated to accomplish great things in our lives. The well-mannered and charismatic man shockingly revealed that he was a ‘trouble maker’ in school whose mission was to make teachers cry and students fight. But one day in music class, La Foucade was determined to uphold his status as ‘class clown’ by vociferously blowing a recorder. His music teacher then took his hands and placed his fingers over the recorder to allow the same harsh sounds, which previously came from the instrument, to be turned into melodious notes. It was this life-changing moment that was able to turn him from his miserable ways and discover that he had a higher calling, simply by having his rebellious energy channeled into a useful one. La Foucade told students this story to illustrate how important it is to find one’s purpose and how important one’s purpose is in turning one’s life around and being able to help others do the same as well. At the end of every day of the symposium, each person was able to walk away with something memorable from the facilitators who all made indelible impressions on our lives.