Speaking to the Sunrise Rotary in Freeport, Grand Bahama yesterday, Keith Cooper, Director of Resort Sales at Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour detailed his efforts and the Old Bahama Bay community’s desire to help young entrepreneurs in West End.

What started in the summer of 2005 as a program to mentor young people to focus on the basics of business 101, computer skills and small business development has now grown to a full-fledged business-training program called the West End Youth Entrepreneur Leadership Program.

The program was originally launched with six boys participating in the program who all attend Eight-Mile Rock High School, and now also includes five young girls also looking to become successful businesswomen in the community. The boys and girls, all from West End, range in age 12 to 17 years and are either middle or high school students. Mr. Cooper added that the program places special emphasis on the importance for the youth to understand social responsibility, etiquette and effective verbal and written communication skills.

In addition to the business training they receive, Mr. Cooper and his team have started a laptop and desktop donation program for the youth of West End. Computers that are donated to the youth program will be used to aid in developing their written and verbal skills as well as proper use of the computer.

“This will enable the students to the use the laptops and desk tops in research of their school work and to learn how to start a part-time small business during the year, “ noted Cooper, “so far we have received eight used lap tops and there are more pledged by individuals, U.S. companies and by a member of this club.”

It is Mr. Cooper’s hope that each computer will be modified with the basic software that will enable the kids to access the Internet, write school papers, research small business ideas and, of course, learning educational computer games. By the end of this summer he anticipates at least 15 laptops will be in the hands of the youth in West End. The lap top drive also encourages financial donations to help support the cost of the necessary software and associated computer fees.

The groups goal is to see every school age child in West End with a lap top for school or desk top in the home to use in preparing research papers for school or planning for college or to start a new business.

This summer Mr. Cooper and the group will also be launching a West End Youth Tour Guide Program. “This program will provide summer and part time jobs to our youth who will be trained as Bahama Host guides and offer tourists visiting the area a guided tour of the village, recounting the rich past, buildings, folklore and history that made West End unique.”

He went on to add that he has a U.S. company that is looking to sponsor the kids uniforms for this venture and that the students are busy now designing the tour and text for the concept.
Cooper concluded his speech to Rotary by noting that he felt there was a metamorphosis taking place in his hometown of West End, Grand Bahama. “A shift in economic development and new opportunities for small business development has begun with the announcement of the Ginn project, Blue Marlin Cove in Bootle Bay and the expansion underway at Old Bahama Bay. There is an imminent turn around of economic vitality that will have a profound effect on the lives of every person living along the settlements on the west side of the island for years to come”
He noted that now is the time to help our youth prepare for this and to be ready to capitalize on the job opportunities or to create business of their own. “The people of Grand Bahama are writing a new chapter in the history of the island and we need to be prepared to help volunteer our help, to make West End be at our best!”

For more information about the West End Youth Entrepreneur Leadership Program interested persons can contact Keith Cooper at 350-6500 or go on line to the Old Bahama Bay website at www.oldbahamabay.com for more information on the resort.