October 28, 2022
The PACE Foundation is pleased to announce twelve champions of the Character Day Bahamas Hidden Heroes 2022 campaign. Nominees hailed from eight islands - Abaco, Andros, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island, and New Providence. Recognized for their contributions to their community, there were students, educators, community builders, a physician, a disability advocate, coaches, and for the first time, a corporate Hidden Hero was selected.
“It’s always great to discover who the Hidden Heroes are in our communities,” said Sonia Brown, president of the PACE Foundation that runs the Character Day Bahamas program. “Moving out of the pandemic, it was encouraging to see that the pre-dominant character strengths were “kindness” and “leadership.” People have endured incredible hardships since Spring 2020, and for many, it remains the same. So, it’s wonderful when we focus on positivity.”
Social responsibility, creativity and humility were other popular character strengths. The VIA Institute states, “Character strengths are the positive parts of your personality that make us feel authentic and engaged. We possess all 24-character strengths in different degrees, giving us a unique character strengths profile. Research shows that understanding and applying our strengths can help (for example) to boost confidence.” (Source VIAcharacter.org).
The 2022 Character Day Bahamas champions who “Let Their Light Shine” were from New Providence, Eleuthera, Exuma and Long Island: Corporate: Leja Burrows; Students: Tysha Johnson; Taylen Nicolls; and Dantae Fowler; Educators - Philane Sargent and Keffie Ann Ferguson-Duncombe; Youth Leader – Samantha Ferguson (Exuma); Counselor and Translator – Lavita Thurston; Physician – Dr. Sidney W. Smith (Eleuthera); Disability Advocate – Kendrick Rolle; Community Mentor – Calvin E. Greene; and Coach and Consultant – Nathan J. Burrows (Long Island).
The 2022 Character Day Bahamas Hidden Hero finalists were: Anatol C. Young, a community helper; Anwar Rolle, Captain Bahamas - new environmental hero; Caroline Sawyer, owner, Sundowner's Restaurant GTC; Charlene Bain, community health director; Hadassah March, community builder, Credit Union branch manager; Keiliah Adderley, education, president of the Heart to Heart Foundation; Linda and Larry Davis, a septuagenarian and an octogenarian who continue to help animals and people; Philicity Gibson, founder of The Royal Experience; Ramona Wells, outreach coordinator and educator; Samantha Ferguson, youth leader; Sammarko Lightbourne, youth leader, literacy advocate, empathy role model and; Sophia Fisher, a pharmacist.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CHAMPIONS:
Leja Burrows Character Strengths – Kindness, Humility, and Perseverance
Leja Burrows is the assistant director of education, Early Childhood Section, Ministry of Education. She is also the chief commissioner of the Bahamas Girl Guides Association. Leja was recognized as a Hidden Hero by her nominator who for the past 25 years, has been positively transformed under her guidance. “Leja is an educator who believes in the development of her staff, teachers, students, and the educational system of the Bahamas. As a result of her leadership, there is visible growth in her department, the preschool program, and her employees. She sees the best in everyone around her. She is positive and does not give up on people,” said her nominator. “Leja has also helped develop the youth in her work with the Girl Guides Association over the past forty plus years, in various capacities. Presently, she heads the Association and as a result of her innovative leadership, we have seen an enhanced culture... Mrs. Leja Burrows’s long-term service to family, church, work, and the community shows that she demonstrates perseverance, she has a compassionate heart, is kind, and is always giving her time and resources…When the world seems so selfish, she is so selfless.”
Dantae Fowler Leadership, Social Responsibility and Perseverance
Dantae is a student at the University of The Bahamas. His nominator shared, “He is an astonishing young man who puts service over self and offers a helping hand. Some of his deeds include the pantry drive that he started at his school for donations to local parishes or homes for the elderly which still operates today. In October 2022 he is hosting a young men’s seminar... He works through disappointments and is tenacious, making sure that goals are achieved. Dantae is working on bringing back Boys Scouts and Girls Brigade, to the Kemp Road community, so that children have a safe space to have fun and connect with others. “He does not want to take credit for his actions, and he inspires others to be just like him, and that’s why he is a Hidden Hero.”
Tysha Johnson Character Strengths - Leadership, Kindness, and Social Responsibility
Tysha Johnson is a 14-year-old student at Windsor High School. Her nominator said, “She is a well-rounded young lady who is reliable, courteous, giving, and strong-minded.” Tysha has been recognized for her educational strides, is active in many clubs, she is community minded, and a dedicated athlete. She is a member of the Fourteen Clubs Golf Academy and in 2022, Tysha placed third in the National Golf Championship.
In 2019, Tysha represented Kingsway Academy Primary in the Primary Student of the Year. She was also nominated for the Ministry of Youth Leadership and Community Service Award. In 2021, Tysha received a four-year scholarship to Windsor School Albany. She has also received the Ministry of Youth Rising Star Award in Education.
Tysha's commitment to community volunteerism is extensive. Her civic responsibility touches many charities and community initiatives including Hands for Hunger, the Bahamas Red Cross Society, Center for the Deaf, Bahamas National Trust and her own is called Love and Care. She received the (Princess) Diana Award for social action for humanitarian efforts. “This award has truly impacted her life, and she encourages all young people to become an agent of change," said her nominator. Other clubs and activities past and present include: The Bahamas National Youth Choir; Brownies, Girl Guides and Rangers; Sapphire International Girls; Junior Debutante Foundation; Zeta Sorority Auxiliary Youth Affiliate. Tysha is a budding writer, receiving silver in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition and she has won the Regency International Pageant.
Taylen Nicolls Character Strengths – Leadership, Kindness, and Forgiveness
Taylen Nicolls is a grade 6 student at Eva Hilton Primary School in New Providence. Taylen’s nominator states, “Taylen Nicolls is an extra-ordinary, 10-year-old who encourages, shares and loves assisting others.” She is a top student, is community minded, and a gold-medal athlete in swimming. Taylen’s community service is admirable. She worked with the Rotary Club of East Nassau that assisted with an initial donation of two hundred reading books for her school. It will be followed by another eight hundred books. Taylen is involved with the Junior Achievers and Discovery club which contributes to donating, recycling and coastal cleanup projects.
Her dedication and skill in swimming has earned her many trophies and medals; She encourages her teammates to also excel. Taylen trains 6 days a week, year-round, with two 5:30 am weekly sessions. The determination as a competitive swimmer with Mako Aquatics Club, resulted in her recent success as a national record-holder in The Bahamas National Swimming Championships 2021. She plans to represent her island at The Bahamas Games, and her country at international meets. Her greatest goal is the Olympics,” shares her nominator. “I am very proud of the young woman she’s becoming, and I am looking forward to see where life takes her.”
Philane Sargent Character Strengths - Kindness, Love, and Creativity
Philane Sargent is a teacher at Albury Sayle Primary in New Providence who received the most nominations. She was recognized among her peers and parents as an amazing teacher and a businesswoman. They stated, “She is a woman who is kind, caring, hardworking and humble. She cares deeply about people and especially her students, assisting them where she can – whether it’s out of her pocket, or words of encouragement.” Philane was also noted for her humility, and as a woman who balances her professional, entrepreneur life and family. “The way she talks about her students you would think they are her biological children,” wrote a nominator. Another said, “She always puts others needs before hers. Just this school year she decided to give away school supplies to help others. She is always bringing extra lunch items/money for students in need. These are just a few examples of her many acts of kindness.” “Philane is a master connector who uses Tik Tok to engage with her students. It’s never a dull moment with her in and out of the classroom.” She is a true leader, a lady of virtue and a true HERO."
Calvin E. Greene Character of Strengths - Optimism, Spirituality, and Social Responsibility
Calvin E. Greene is a community mentor who resides in New Providence. “Calvin is always optimistic and positive,” wrote a nominator. “He is genuine which people can instantly sense, making them comfortable. He is friendly, a very hard worker, and always volunteering. People whom he has helped decades ago still remember his kindnesses to them and thank him all these years later.”
“I think we need to show appreciation to people like him who really make a difference without fanfare, without remuneration, and without any expectation of recognition... He is passionate about helping people be the very best version of themselves, particularly our young men.”
Calvin is the vice-president of the Boys Scouts of The Bahamas and is also an active member of The Boys Club of the Bahamas. “For years he taught Sunday school. He is the assistant director of the Marriage Renewal Weekend of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and heads the feeding team of that ministry. He has organized events as wide ranging as the repair of roofs of older parishioners, delivery of food parcels to home-bound persons He also assists with the instruction of adults seeking to join the Roman Catholic faith, and he is also on the Crime Watch team in his area.”
Keffie Ann Ferguson-Duncombe Character Strengths - Kindness, Leadership, and Forgiveness
Keffie Ann Ferguson-Duncombe has been an educator for over thirty years. She is currently a librarian at Thelma Gibson Primary School. She has faced many challenges, including breast cancer, and that didn’t stop her passion for educating the nation’s children. She is indeed a Hero, championing the cause of literacy and breast cancer awareness,” said her nominator. During the pandemic, Keffie helped learners stay engaged with “Story-Time,” by dressing as book characters, which she continues to do. She also visited the homes of the less-fortunate students sharing books and treats.
“This hidden hero’s character strength is her passion for her profession and the children she interacts with. She has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students. Because of her passion for literacy, she is also invited to many other schools to share with students and teachers.”
Dr Sidney W Smith Character Strengths - Humility, Kindness, and Honesty
Dr Sidney W. Smith is a physician who works in the Rock Sound Clinic. For the past 21 years, he has served the communities of Spanish Wells to Bannerman Town in South Eleuthera. "Dr. Smith is a hero who works day and night. He is humble, kind, soften spoken and has the best bedside manners in the world. He also makes house calls, oftentimes not charging those who cannot afford it. He is trustworthy, confidential and expects nothing in return,” said his nominator.
Close to retirement, the residents do not want him to depart the island. His nominator shared, “Dr. Smith has saved many lives through the care he gives, and that many emergency flights to the capital were not always necessary because of his knowledge and skill as a surgeon. This island doctor has been known to assist many financially, whether it was a single mother who needed food for her children, or assisting a patient who had to travel to New Providence for additional care. He is positive-minded and asks for prayers for others.”
Kendrick Rolle Character Strengths – Leadership, Bravery, and Social Intelligence
Kendrick Rolle has been an advocate for persons with disabilities through his career in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and his charities. He is also the Chairman of BaCADAS (Bahamas Coalition of Advocates for Disability Awareness and Services) and Deputy-Chairman of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities in The Bahamas.
“Although Kenny became blind through an accident when he tried to stop a fight during a Peace Rally, this has not dampened his spirit. Kenny uses his position as a disability affairs officer to champion the cause of the disabled in the country. He has secured eyeglasses and white canes to visually impaired persons in New Providence and Andros.”
One nominator said, “He also works to set an example for all, sending the message, that despite your circumstances in life, with courage, hard work and determination, you can do anything you set your mind to. Overall, he has learned to “believe and achieve.” He is a voice for the disabled and for anyone who is disenfranchised.”
In addition to the many activities, he is planning to have the first ever disabled Junkanoo group hit the streets of Bay Street in January 2023 Junkanoo parade.
Lavita Thurston Character Strengths – Leadership, Spirituality, and Kindness
Lavita Thurston is a court translator, JP, and an educator at Virtual School Bahamas. She is also an author of “From Abuse to Glory,” that is based on her life experiences. She is presently pursuing an associate degree in Criminal Justice and Law, at the University of The Bahamas, with plans of becoming a lawyer. Her nominator shares, “Her reason for pursuing law is to help the less fortunate who are falsely accused.”
Lavita holds various positions within her church; she is on the Usher Board, the Prayer Ministry, the Mission’s Board, the Outreach Ministry and the Youth Ministry. She has been known as a strong and benevolent person who performs various charitable acts, such as offering free counseling, food drives, clothes, and school supplies and donations to others.
Lavita formed a non-profit organization called “Grow in God Immensely” (acronym for her daughter ‘Gigi’ who was senselessly murdered). It is an organization that assists victims of abuse, persons with substance abuse problems, the less fortunate, and persons needing counseling. Lavita’s motto is “We are our brothers and sisters’ keepers.”
Nathan J Burrows Character Strengths – Creativity, Love of Learning, and Teamwork
Nathan J Burrows is a creator, coach and consultant in Long Island who aims to encourage others to learn. He operates a business center, vocational school, and a dance business. He has combined consulting and dance, working closely with couples to improve their relationship through dance, as a form of therapy. Nathan values education for himself and others. “He believes that persons must take a hands-on, project-based approach to learning. He values teamwork, and always said, “It doesn't matter how many people are on a team, as long as everyone is headed in the same direction.”
Nathan was diagnosed with a chronic health issue at a young age and does not allow his health to overtake his plans. “I nominated Nathan J Burrows as a Hidden Hero, because I want people to know that he is working towards the future of Bahamians," wrote his nominator.
Samantha Ferguson Character Strengths - Optimism, Kindness, and Humility
Samantha Ferguson is a youth leader in Exum and her nominator had many accolades by her nominator who has known her for more than 20 years, and attests to her work and service in the community. “This lady goes above and beyond for the youth of our community. She is a tutor, youth leader, dance instructor, teaches musical instruments, offers drop off and pick up services, takes youths to church... all from the goodness of her heart!”
Samantha started a youth pop band, gaining sponsorship to get instruments for kids, conducted back to school drives where students received uniforms, she has brought leaders from Florida and Nassau to speak to the youth about college preparedness, offered free after-school tutoring to ensure kids passed the GLAT and BGCSE exams, has housed children, and given back to the community. She also offers educational sessions and movie nights for the youth. Once a teen Mom, she has used her platform teaching them never to give up.”
For more information on Character Day Bahamas, please visit www.characterdaybahamas.org.