Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 6th 2013 Contents A27
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3RD 4TH & 5TH FORMS
Last Saturday, a group of
young men took the stage at
the National Library and
accepted awards for an accom-
plishment that is indeed remark-
able. They are boys from the
Russell Latapy Model Secondary
School and they ve done the for-
mer national footballer s name
proud. Their initial trajectory,
though, could have landed them
The Russell Latapy School was
established in 2000. Students
there had attained, in the SEA,
percentages of 30 or lower. Some
of them obtained a score of zero.
This was a significant challenge
for the school, given that many
of the young men could barely
read or write. Boys in their mid
teens were reading at the level of
We re all frustrated with ram-
paging crime which delivers dis-
tressing headlines almost daily.
British High Commissioner
Arthur Snell was moved to do
something. The High Commis-
sion got together with the Heroes
Foundation to create the It Takes
a Hero Project.
It s a small start; 21 boys from
the Russell Latapy School were
immersed in a literacy pro-
gramme which uses some unique
The Arrow Literacy Foundation
was drafted into this ambitious
objective. It s an organisation set
up to help children who don t
respond to traditional education
Arrow is actually an acronym---
aural, read respond, oral, write.
As project consultant Christopher
Bonterre explained at the cere-
mony, children tend to learn bet-
ter and faster when they hear
He made the point, and it s
true if you really think about it,
we think in our own voices. If
you are thinking in someone
else s voice then perhaps an
exorcist might be more helpful
The students hear speech or
words and are encouraged to read
the text of the spoken material.
The objective is to use what is
called "self-voice" to aid in seed-
ing the process of reading and
comprehension in the mind.
The boys selected for this proj-
ect were able in a 20-hour ses-
sion to advance their literacy
skills by several months, in some
cases by more than a year!
The project is also designed to
improve behaviour and foster
respectful relationships. Some of
the boys laughed quietly, as if in
agreement with their principal,
that they were no bed of roses.
Studies have shown that stu-
dents who do not learn to read
and write are the best candidates
for early departure from the
Consequently, they are the
ones more likely destined for
low-skilled, poor paying jobs or
unemployment. You know what
the ultimate destination is of
course: prison or death.
Teachers and tutors began to
notice marked improvements in
the performance of the boys cho-
sen for this project. These
changes were measured against
students who hadn t benefitted
from Arrow. Not surprisingly,
individual transformations were
also observed by parents.
You see, the parents of these
boys were also lynchpins in the
success of the concept. They
were required to participate in
sessions with their children.
One mother, overcome with
emotion, testified how a relation-
ship with her son which was
strained at best had become
more cordial. Speaking as if some
sorcery was at the root of her
good fortune, she spoke of a boy
more amenable and respectful.
Some of these children and
their parents live in a place
which many of us condemn as
an unsalvageable, no man s land
of unbridled violence and
It wasn t simply money that
procured this result. It was the
fact that the British High Com-
mission and the Heroes Founda-
tion, along with tutors and
teachers, cared enough to inter-
vene and alter the almost prede-
termined, grim trajectory of these
We all ceaselessly bemoan the
continued bloodletting. The best
we can offer is either blame for
the Government or a donation of
books and computers, none of
which children with limited liter-
acy can use.
Now I could go on to suggest
that the ridiculous Hoops of Life
project could have funded similar
interventions in many schools
across the country. Oh wait, I
It is almost assured that the
success of the Arrow concept at
this model school in Port-of-
Spain has inspired the British
High Commission to examine
ways of replicating the refreshing
results in other schools.
But there are several founda-
tions crying out for citizens to
provide mentorship for young
people who have either been
abandoned by their parents or
suffer tenuous existences in
deeply fractured households.
The Big Brother Big Sister pro-
gramme is a perfect example; it s
always on the hunt for mentors
willing to intervene in a life
headed down the wrong path.
Financial support is important; a
donation of time is invaluable.
With the help of the British
High Commission and the
Heroes Foundation, the boys of
the Russell Latapy Secondary
School have shown the country
that no one can impose a destiny
upon them; they are the heroes
in their own life stories. They can
shape the narratives of their lives.
HOPE FOR OUR HEROES We're all frustrated
crime which delivers
almost daily. British
Arthur Snell was
moved to do
something. The High
together with the
to create the It
Takes a Hero Project.
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