At a time when some of the island’s youth are caught up in a life of crime and violence, one young man is being honoured for achieving academic excellence.
Aaron Thomas, who came out on top of the Maritime Studies class at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology, was presented with the Minister’s Award by Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, for achieving top marks in that area of study.
Thomas was also granted a one-year internship with Goddard’s Shipping and Tours.
The former Deighton Griffith student who thanked the tutors and relatives who helped him on his path to success, said initially, his interest was in masonry, which he wanted to pursue at the skills training institute.
“I was privileged to be accepted to both institutions but my parents helped me to make the better choice to go with. Of course in my opinion it wasn’t the choice I wanted but since my parents were so persistent about me pursuing these studies, I decided to go with their choice and it was convenient for me in the sense that it was in close proximity to where I reside,” Thomas told those who gathered at the Pine, Wildey institution to share the special moment with him.
The young man said that at the beginning of his journey at the institute, he was clueless about Maritime Studies, and he wasn’t interested in finding out since it really was not his first love. The young man admitted that he decided to skip a few classes, and when he did go, it would be in his own time.
“Until one day a tutor by the name of Mr Adrian Stoute saw potential in me which I did not see until the day he opened my eyes and encouraged me to take my studies seriously and not to waste my parents’ money.
“Another tutor by the name of Mr Richards also encouraged and guided me in my studies. I began to realize that what I thought I didn’t understand was becoming very simple to me but all I needed to do was apply myself to the work,” he said.
Thomas said with God’s help and a strong belief in his abilities he made the decision to settle down and focus on his studies. He said this was one of the greatest decisions he has made in his life so far as he excelled in classes and was given the opportunity to go on a job attachment at the Bridgetown Port Inc. where he began to put what he learnt in class into practice.
“It was a great experience. I was a seaman on the deck, however, I was given the opportunity to steer the tug and navigate as well. I can now proudly say that I know where to go next as this course has taught me the direction in which to steer my life. I am certain about what I want in my career and I am sure that my fellow graduates have found what they want to do as well,” he said.
Delivering remarks at the ceremony, Minister Humphrey spoke about the importance of getting young people interested and involved in the maritime industry and congratulated Thomas on a job well done.
Turning his attention to the issue of of gun violence, which has been affecting Barbados’ social landscape, Humphrey, who described the situation as scary, said Barbadians’ approach to close their windows, doors and ignore the issue, is not the way to go.
“But there are two ways to look at this. I believe we have to have tougher laws and we recently had a debate around mandatory death penalty. And what people didn’t understand is that by changing the legislation we were actually allowing ourselves to use the death penalty because currently we can’t.
“But more importantly, I feel we have to be able to get back into these communities and work with our young people, give them opportunities and offer them hope,” Humphrey said.
The minister also suggested that the requirement where people must have “a million certificates to get into an institution” has to be changed to give those who are not academically inclined a chance at acquiring skills.
“What are we doing? There has to be another way that allows people who are trying to make something of themselves to be able to get into these institutions. A lot of these technical and vocational schools were never meant to compete with the universities. We have to think wholistically about the kind of country that we want to build,” Humphrey said.
The minister encouraged the awardee to continue travelling along the positive path of life, and urged him to reach for excellence in the maritime industry, while staying in touch with the ministry.