Applications for the 2017-2018 school year closed only last week for the National Council of Voluntary Organisations’ new $20,000 university scholarship, marking the newest “giving back” community effort by the venerable Cayman charity.

Unsurprisingly, the organization prefers applicants interested in “caring or community-based degrees” such as “education, social work, nursing, healthcare or similar,” but does not strictly limit candidates.

“The NCVO Scholarship Fund,” according to requirements listed for aspirants, “is available for any field of academic study, but extra consideration will be given to areas of study that are beneficial to the community,” underscoring the organization’s 33-year service traditions.

Director Janice Wilson said the new tertiary grant became available through a corporate donation, announced on May 2; she cites a confidentiality agreement with the donor.

The corporate entity, she says, wanted to assist students from the Cayman Islands to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and sought the NCVO’s help in creating and administering a scholarship program.

Both Wilson and the donor hope the new scholarship will ultimately assist as many as 20 students, defraying their annual expenses for four years of study as long as the student maintains the required grades.

The new grant is a rough counterpart to the organization’s long-established John Gray Memorial Grant, also an annual $20,000 award to Caymanian university students studying locally or overseas.

Named after former NCVO Council and Executive Committee member, United Church minister and High School Principal Rev. John Gray, the fund is “intended for expenses associated with pursuing a degree such as books, accommodation and transportation,” aiding “those who may have finding for tuition through government grants or other means, but not for additional expenses,” according to the NCVO website.

Past recipients, it says, have studied a “wide range of courses including business administration, cytotechnology, hospitality management, accounting and social work.”

Widespread support

Academic support, however, is far from the NCVO’s only “giving back” function, although Miss Nadine’s Preschool, the Jack and Jill Nursery and the Caring Cousins Fund school-lunch program are education related.

With a budget of $1 million per year, the organization also supports the Nadine Andreas Foster Residential Home, the New to You Bargain Shop and “small welfare grants to a few of the Pines Retirement Home residents and others in need in the community,” Wilson says – and 25 full-time staff.

“The NCVO also caters to individuals or families who may need clothing or household supplies through our Bargain Shop,” she says, meaning “we have assisted people who have been affected by fire or unemployment, and Cuban refugees in need of clothing.”

The Anthony Drive preschool accepts up to 70 children between the ages of 2 and 5 years, Wilson says, and offers discounted fees through means testing. Half of the $500,000 per year costs are met by school fees, according to the website, meaning “a large amount of donations are necessary,” to operate the program.

The four staff members at Jack and Jill Nursery care for as many as 14 children aged between 3 months and 2 years. Like the preschool, the nursery also offers means-tested discounts on the $100 weekly charges. Projected costs for 2017-2018 are $130,000, with less than half coming from school fees.

Caring Cousins, Wilson says, provides lunch for 38 students at various schools in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, depending on need and funding, and occasionally offering “assistance for uniform costs,” according to the website.

“Eligibility and selection are determined through referrals from counsellors, teachers, social workers and other involved parties,” Wilson says. “The NCVO continually seeks donations for this project and currently spends around CI$30,000-35,000 per annum.”

The residential home, which opened in 1992 with a private donation, provides foster care for as many as nine children aged between 5 and 17 years, boys and girls, short-term and long-term, and keeping siblings together.

Wilson describes the home as a “care and protection facility,” meaning “children are placed with us for reasons such as abuse or neglect,” parental issues of mental health, incarceration, drug abuse or other reasons.

When it opened, the home accommodated 12 children, Wilson said, but “research suggested smaller group homes were more effective and provided more of a family-type’ environment, reducing the numbers under care, although “the services we offer for those children – including access to counseling, activities, private tutoring, etc. – has expanded considerably.”

The home has aided more than 50 children in the last decade, Wilson said, but it is not really possible to figure an “average stay” in the home.

“It totally varies from case to case, dependent on need and situation, [and] could be a matter of days, could be years,” said NCVO Coordinator Mona Lisa Meade. “But [for] longer-term cases, we work with DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services] to find reunification options for the children, for example, with a foster carer or family member.”

Wilson pegged annual costs to operate the home at approximately $390,000.

Some of that cost is defrayed by the New to You Bargain Shop, staffed by a handful of volunteers.

“The New to You Bargain Shop is a further source of income through sales of used household goods, clothing, appliances and more. Items are also donated to people in need in the community,” Meade said.

“Sales of the Cayman Watercolours Calendar further boosts the organization’s funds, and a number of smaller fundraisers throughout the year keep the cash trickling in.”

Others also provide scholarships

Scholarships for local students are not an NCVO monopoly. Since 2012, Dart Enterprises has offered annual four-year “Minds Inspired” funding to two high school students, and, since 2013, to one university student at the institution of their choice. However, the William A. Dart Foundation – named for the enterprise founder – may award more than one tertiary scholarship.

“The high school scholarship is awarded to two students who go through an extremely competitive and blind application process,” said Glenda McTaggart, Dart Enterprises manager for education programs. “The university scholarship is dependent upon the numbers and type of applications, as well as specific needs. Different needs are evaluated and can result in more than one being awarded a scholarship.”

A winner’s school choice is unlimited. McTaggart did not name a preferred local high school, saying “the scholar and his/her parents choose the school, and Dart is supportive of that personal choice.”

“Where a scholar chooses to remain in a government school,” she said, Dart contributes the difference in the greater private-school tuition to a college fund for the student, helping to defray tertiary tuition.

The high school awards are “open to all Caymanian students from private and public schools … who excel in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics … As an engineer,” McTaggart said, “William Dart believed that maths/science were the cornerstone of success.

“Our university students, however, may study whatever field they choose.”

Colleges selected by scholarship winners encompass an array of schools on at least two continents, and include Stanford, Penn State, Princeton, Ohio State and Northwestern in the U.S., King’s College London, “most recently Cambridge,” McTaggart says, and Ontario’s University of Guelph.

In fact, she cites the original recipients of the university grants, Julian Solomon and Matthew McTaggart. Solomon, she says, completed a degree in business management followed by a “conversion” program – enabling a student to pursue legal training – “and was recently accepted into the RICS [Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors] master’s program at City College in London to pursue a professional qualification in real estate development.”

Matthew McTaggart, she says, “recently graduated from Penn State with concurrent undergraduate degrees in civil and electrical engineering. Earning top honors in his program, Matthew was awarded a full scholarship from Penn State to pursue a master’s/Ph.D. in electrical engineering in September.”

McTaggart declined to name a budget for Minds Inspired, other than to call it “substantial.” A single year at Princeton University, for example, exceeds US$60,000.

To retain Minds Inspired support, students must meet minimum academic standards. McTaggart said the grants were originally earned “by demonstrating academic excellence, so scholars are required to achieve a minimum ‘B’ grade in all ‘core’ subject areas for the duration of their studies.”

Core subjects include mathematics, ICT/IT, English, sciences and social studies/humanities. “Failure to maintain a high academic standard may result in suspension or withdrawal of the scholarship,” she says, adding that no one has ever failed out of Minds Inspired.

“We expect our scholars to maintain a high academic standing, and on an annual basis we review and recognize each scholar’s achievements. If a scholar is faced with academic challenges we have a supportive process to assist them with making necessary improvements.”

That “supportive process” is a crucial adjunct to Minds Inspired. Called “structured monitoring,” it varies based on the age of the student, their available time and their career interests,” McTaggart says.

“Dart mentors … provide guidance around subjects to take and share insights on the various professional qualifications that should be considered, depending on the field of study.

“For example, if a high-school scholar has a strong interest in engineering, but is unsure about the type of engineering they want to pursue, we will set them up to shadow and spend time talking with our qualified [Dart Enterprises] engineers across different specialties – mechanical, civil, electrical, nuclear and even biomedical. This type of experience gives the scholar valuable insight to make a more informed choice of study path and career. The Dart employees involved provide feedback to the Minds Inspired program coordinator, allowing that student’s experiences to inform next steps in their Minds Inspired journey.”

A similar program aids university scholars, who may also take advantage of work experience and internship opportunities.

“Dart also works with companies that are ‘like-minded’ about education and mentoring to provide opportunities that we are not able to provide. For example, we have scholars who have spent time at Health City learning more about careers in medicine,” McTaggart says.

Chamber of Commerce opportunities

Academic scholarships, however, are only one genre among educational “giving back” opportunities for young Caymanians. The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has been giving back for more than 25 years through its youth mentoring and Junior Achievement programs.

Since Rotary Central introduced Junior Achievement to Cayman in 1991, about 10,000 [local] students have participated in its program, said Junior Achievement alumna and consultant Marzeta Bodden.

“Junior Achievement Cayman Islands is part of JA Worldwide,” Bodden says, and is “the world’s largest not-for-profit educational organization offering in-school and after-school practical business programs.”

Junior Achievement Worldwide – founded in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1919, and today headquartered in Colorado – reaches 10.6 million students in 117 countries. It is “on a mission to ensure that every child has a fundamental understanding of the free-enterprise system by educating and inspiring young people to value free enterprise, business and economics in order to improve the quality of their lives,” Bodden says.

The Chamber joined Rotary Central as a “strategic partner” in Junior Achievement in 1997, providing permanent offices and administrative support, and today offers half-a-dozen programs: The Company Program and Ourselves Kindergarten Program – “the most well-known,” says Bodden – augmented by JA Career Success, JA Job Shadow, JA More than Money and Economics for Success.

Integrating concepts of honesty, trust and integrity, she says, “the end result is a more-proficient understanding of our world that enables these students to make their way into successful careers … [as] the next generation of business leaders,” conversant in entrepreneurship, financial management and responsibility.

The company program – targeting students between 15 and 18 years old – runs 18 weeks from October to March; classroom programs – for kindergartners through year 11 – run for six weeks typically from February to April.

Both programs are “taught” by advisers, generally drawn from companies acting as Junior Achievement sponsors. The 2017 list includes Dart, Tetra Laval Finance, Ogier, Cayman National, EFG Bank, Maples FS, Cayman Airways, Butterfield Bank, First Caribbean International Bank, DMS, Mourant Ozannes, PricewaterhouseCoopers and telephone book publisher Yello Media Group.

Each sponsor, Bodden says, typically provides between five and 10 advisers to the company program, and one adviser to the classroom curriculum. In 2016-2017, Junior Achievement registered 90 company advisers and 16 classroom volunteers, acting “as business adviser, role model, and supervisor.”

Many advisers repeat their service, she says, “supporting and volunteering with JA for many, many years. Each year, we also welcome, train and prepare new advisers.”

Company program participants meet once a week for 2.5 hours after school and work hours, usually at the offices of the program’s sponsor. Additional meetings occur during heavy production periods; and “selling events” often occur at weekends.

Classroom program participants meet once a week for one hour during school and work hours at the host schools.

Company advisers, she says, help students create their own companies with “real products, real dollars and real consumers,” establishing goals, raising capital, preparing a business plan, manufacturing a product or service, developing marketing and sales strategies, distributing dividends and shareholders reports and finally liquidating the operation.

Along the way, Bodden says, students learn “communications, problem solving, team building, time management and basic financial accounting skills.” An awards ceremony at the end recognizes top companies, “executives,” products and individuals, and offers a chance to attend the Junior Achievement Americas Company of the Year competition and Canada’s Next Generation Leaders awards.

Classroom advisers explain economic concepts and promote entrepreneurship, often spilling into the more focused JA Economics for Success program, which, Bodden says, expands student knowledge of personal finance – “including smart budgeting, wise credit use and minimizing financial risk – so they can apply strong financial-management skills regardless of their income.”

Targeting middle school pupils, “Economics” comprises six sessions, between 45 minutes and one hour, and materials for 32 students correlating to local social studies, English, math and Common Core standards.

Bodden offers a partial list of local alumni, including Hollywood filmmaker Frank E. Flowers, 2015 Young Caymanian of the year Kadi Merren-Pentney, Maples and Calder lawyer Maxine Bodden-Robinson, Dr. Ruth Pomares, actress Grace Byers – nee Gealey, entrepreneur Dwene Ebanks and government facilities manager Troy Whorms.

Repeat advisory performances also characterize the Chamber of Commerce’s mentoring program, founded in 2002 as a joint effort with the Ministry of Education, connecting business and government leaders with 50 top Year 11 students from both private and public schools.

Nominated by their school principals, each student is matched with a mentor working in a student’s chosen field. Past mentors have included business owners, architects, accountants, human-resources professionals, attorneys, engineers, interior and graphic designers, veterinarians, media and communications specialists and banking officers.

During the September-June program, students meet their mentors monthly at their place of work, often for organized social events, and occasionally outside of work hours. This year, according to a Chamber spokesman, Mentoring Cayman added two sessions examining post-high school education and career development.

Workplace meetings explore “careers, education, personal development, and more,” said Ross Taylor, Chamber communications coordinator, adding that “Mentoring Cayman is not a simple work-experience opportunity,” but rather “a more-sophisticated program designed to expose students to the workplace environment and culture that they may never otherwise have access to,” providing “an excellent way to prepare our young people for their chosen career path or expose them to new ideas and industries for a fulfilling future.”

The 2017 program lists three “outstanding” sponsors – Caribbean Alliance Insurance Company, Cox Lumber and Rocky’s Diamond Gallery – and support from the Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports. Every governor since 2002 has served as patron.

Success, he said, is measured by both students and mentors: “When we see mentors returning over and over again, we know that they are personally benefitting from the program, and it is rewarding to see members of our community return to give back to society and support our future leaders.”

Taylor quotes Bon Vivant’s Cynthia Hew: “I have seen my mentee really open up and share some of the pressures she is under.

“We talk and I try to listen as well as share creative ways to deal with stresses and feeding her dreams. Dreams are so much more than what one sees and feels – they are a clear reality just waiting for someone willing to take a risk to make them happen,” Hew said.

Chamber CEO Wil Pineau agrees: “Mentoring is a powerful personal development and empowerment tool. It is an effective way of helping people to progress in their careers. It is a partnership between … mentor and mentee with similar interests sharing similazr experiences. It is a helpful relationship based upon mutual trust and respect.

“Young Caymanians are our future, and as such we need to ensure that they receive the right support and encouragement to develop into the leaders of tomorrow.”

Other ways of giving back

School-based programs are not the only way local companies give back to the community. The Caribbean Utilities Company, for example, has been sponsoring football leagues for nearly 35 years, starting in the early ‘80s, and the Cayman Islands Football Association.

In 1997, says Neil Murray, CUC corporate communications officer and chairman of CIFA’s Youth Committee, the company created a “Community Involvement Team,” overseeing employee participation in community outreach projects, “particularly those involving Cayman’s youth.”

“The opportunity arose,” he said, “to sponsor the Primary Football League – known then as the Pee Wee League – which had been around since the 1970s.”

In 2004, he said, CUC approached the Ministry of Education and Sports, offering to sponsor the Primary Football League; the inaugural season kicked-off in September 2005.

The company started sponsoring the CUC Girls Primary Football League in 2014, and has contributed $250,000 to the two leagues since 2005. Both have two age groups, Under 9 and U-11, encompassing 650 children between the ages of 5 and 11 years.

Murray  said all public and private elementary schools are part of the Primary Football League and the Girls Primary Football League, including a Northeast team combining East End Primary and North Side’s Edna Moyle Primary.

The balance of the roster comprises Bodden Town, Prospect, Savannah, Red Bay, George Town and Sir John A. Cumber primary schools, a Cayman Brac joint team of the island’s primary schools, Cayman International School, Triple C, Cayman Prep, St. Ignatius, Cayman Academy, a South Sound team combining Montessori by the Sea, Hope Academy and First Baptist, and Truth For Youth.

The teams play, on Saturday mornings at most of the schools, and at the end of the season there are playoffs for the Champions Cup and Consolation Cup.

The PFL and GPFL are not CUC’s only sponsorship activity; it gives back through half-a-dozen sports organizations: The Cayman Islands Athletic Association, the CARIFTA Team, CUC Youth and Junior CARIFTA Track and Field Championships, the CARIFTA Swim Team, the CUC 800m Sea Swim and the Flowers Swim.

“We also assist with a number of other sports, though not as major sponsors,” he says, and “the company contributes annually to a number of organizations/events” he simply enumerates as “too many to mention.”

Happily, he says, his CIFA Youth Committee slot provides synergy to his CUC chores: “This position gives me a little more authority to implement youth-related football activities for boys and girls, both in the schools and with the clubs. Lots of work, but I thoroughly enjoy it,” he says.

Murray’s youth-football work is complemented by the Under-15 RCIPS Football Club, administered by Winsome Prendergast, chairwoman of the Police Welfare Committee.

The police started the group in 2015; it now comprises “about 100 kids” on eight teams, she says, with about 12 kids per team.

The league is intended “to build camaraderie and fellowship within the organization and outside of it, with the wider community,” according to a club press release.

“We have always sought corporate sponsorship, Prendergast says, “trying to work with all the football clubs and groups We invite all of them. Both boys and girls, and last year had quite a few.”

Sponsorship costs, she says, run $600 to $1,000 and include T-shirts and, occasionally, even refreshments. Cayman Airways is among the sponsors, and ScotiaBank even won a cup on aggregate.

Playoffs are scheduled for July 3 at CIFA’s Prospect field, and Prendergast says he is trying to organize a visit by Jamaica’s U-15 team.

Any “giving back” list would be incomplete without the corporate sponsors supporting Cayman’s swimming organizations, organized under the nonprofit Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association.

The swimming association – itself sponsored by 16 organizations including the Ministry of Sports, the Health Services Authority, KPMG, Dart, Davenport Development, Care Pharmacy, Butterfield Bank, Foster’s Food Fair and the Aall Foundation – is Cayman’s governing body for aquatic sports.

On June 10, the organization will help run the 25th annual Flowers One Mile Sea Swim. On June 12, Flowers and more than 40 other companies will host the newest Flowers event, the Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas’ 5K and 10K swims.

Stingray Swim Club, founded in 1996, is one of three registered clubs under CIASA, which is involved with at least eight swimming clubs and schools.

“Like many not-for-profit sports clubs,” said Kathy Jackson, unofficial public liaison for Stingray, “it relies on the business community’s sense of corporate responsibility when it comes to investing in sports, providing the funding needed so that our youth have access to professional coaching and the equipment necessary to develop and excel.”

Speaking of Stingray specifically, but of corporate “giving back” generally, Jackson said investment in youth sports programs conveyed enormous benefits: “The commitment and dedication required increases the ability to manage time, to concentrate and to focus on a goal.

“It can provide structure to students who need it, a support network of friends from their teammates and coaches, and a sense of family and of accomplishment.”

While costs of training and competing can be daunting, she said, “when I think back to the sense of pride throughout the country when our athletes do well it strikes me that sporting success is something which everyone can get behind. It makes us proud as a nation and it helps to focus our athletes.”

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