Students of an innovative leadership program in the Bahamas were invigorated by their exposure to a more global landscape in the Georgian capital of Atlanta.
“The students came to appreciate just how diverse career opportunities are when your vision is global,” reported Zhivargo Laing of the Bahamas Institute for Youth Leadership Development (BIYLD) which offers a 10-month leadership course for Bahamian high school students.
Laing, who with his wife Zsa Zsa set up the program which includes visits to transnational companies, said the visit to Atlanta was transforming for the graduating high schoolers: “Coming to Atlanta and visiting companies with massive global reach like CNN and Coca-Cola, and talking to their managers, widened options for our students by helping them realize these career opportunities are real.”
On the educational side, Laing noted a new found respect among his students for the distinguished colleges and universities in the region. “The students developed a great appreciation for the scholarship and professional development opportunities that Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Clark-Atlanta University offer.”
Taking advantage of the Atlanta trip Laing sprinted into action trying to place one of the students. “We are looking into the prospect of having one of the young ladies who is a track athlete from an underprivileged environment secure a scholarship through contacts made at Clark-Atlanta University.”
While exploring higher educational opportunities for his students, Laing himself learned something: “In fact, I discovered that a number of Bahamians are heading university programs in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, especially in the athletic arena.”
The students were also introduced to the diplomatic world and how it connects with international trade and business through visits to offices such as the Bahamas Consulate General in Atlanta.
On the spiritual side, Laing asserted their visit to Reverend Creflo Dollar’s World Changers Church International, impacted the students as they heard him preach a message which suggested that “whatever your challenges in life, believe that God has already worked to help you overcome them and you need simply believe and work to find his solution”.
The highlight of the trip for the students, according to Laing, was the homage to the iconic human rights champion: “By far the most emotional impact came during the visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, where every young person came to appreciate more fully the global impact of Dr. King’s efforts in the civil rights struggle. The up close and personal interaction with his legacy at his church, at his home and at his center moved them to a deep sense of responsibility to do their part to improve the state of our human family.”
Students participated in three exposure tours developed by BIYLD, one on the island of Grand Bahama, one on the island of New Providence, and one in Atlanta, Georgia. The visits provided insight into the workings of the corporate world, as well as the educational, training and professional opportunities it offers. The Atlanta trip was the culmination of the program.
In 2012, The Laings converted the Marco City Youth Leadership Institute into BIYLD.