The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a non-for-profit, passionate and voluntary youth-led development institution organized its fifth Academic Excellence Award program named and styled 'Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman Academic Award' on Friday, 22nd February 2013 for the first semester of 2012/2013.
Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman served as president of the University of Liberia from 1978 - 1984 and became the first female president of a major university on the African continent. She was a beacon of hope, a symbol of courage, a character to emulate, a visionary and a campaigner for justice.
The program was held in the Chapel of Ebenezer Christian Academy located in Red light, Paynesville City and brought together over one hundred fifty award recipients from ten high schools in the vicinity of Paynesville, school administrators, as well as a host of dignitaries.
This award is biannual and designed to inspire and recognize secondary school students from 6th to 12th grade, who earn 85 percent and above semester or yearly average. It is also intended to promote academic excellence, enhance motivation, encourage scholastic activities and foster good citizenship thereby developing self-confidence, leadership and motivation to achieve full potential.
Serving as keynote speaker, Dr. W. Kpangbala Sengbe, Sr, Principal Director/Chief of Staff of the Liberia Maritime Authority outlined the importance of academic excellence in the development and advancement of post-war Liberia. He narrated vivid examples about how the pursuit of academic excellence in school has and continued to play a pivotal role in his life.
He cautioned recipients of the award to be more studious and avoid being complacent. The motivational speaker further encouraged students to make use of every opportunity to foster their education as Liberia needs sober, mature and dedicated young people who are willing, qualified and competent to take up the mantle of authority in shaping the country's future to a noble destiny.
"The provision of basic social services, financial aids, and abundant natural resources will not move Liberia forward unless investment in human resource development that would ensure the construction and installation of facilities to enhance social services, sustainable development and equitable distribution of resources for the common good of all" Dr. Sengbe noted.
He maintained that young people especially students should abolish the consumption of alcoholic beverages, early sexual intercourse and other social vices which he said could derail their thinking ability and make them resort to unacceptable societal norms. He urged students to look for role model and emphasized the importance of reading as an integral component of education.
The Principal Director/Chief of Staff applauded the Youth Exploring Solutions for such a wonderful and remarkable initiative and called on benevolent individuals and humanitarian organizations to help the youth group, which is primarily a self-sponsored organization.
For his part, the Founder/Executive Director of YES, Stephen B. Lavalah congratulated award recipients for their success thus far and admonished them to muster the courage so as to make the challenges and demands that lie ahead.
Mr. Lavalah asserted that in spite of enormous challenges in the educational sector as evidenced in the results of the West African Examination Council exams for the past five years, massive failure of students in university and college placement examinations couple with malpractices or collusions in most institutions of learning, unavailability of qualified instructional staff, inadequate text books, lack of libraries and basic infrastructural facilities on most campuses.
"There are still some students who burn the midnight candle and are performing exceptionally well in their lessons and need to be motivated" he added.
The YES boss emphasized that positive academic motivation helps a child succeed in school and to see that learning is rewarding and important in all aspects of life. He further explained that through the award program nine students from secondary schools in Monrovia and its environs have received scholarships.
Meanwhile, the youth advocate is calling on the Government to invest in education at all levels; stressing that only trained and skillful minds can achieve the vision of a new Liberia in making it a reality and being a part of the changes.
Speaking during the program, Bai Best, Marketing Manager of the Daily Observer newspaper challenged the honorees to remain focused, determined and steadfast in their academic sojourn. He advised students to take their lessons serious and cultivate a spirit to always improve in whatever undertaking.
Also making remarks, Hennistta W. Nyangbe, Volunteer of the President Young Professional Program urged students to persevere in all aspects of their academic endeavors. She recounted her experiences and warned youth especially girls to comport themselves in accordance with acceptable standards and international best practices.
The administration, faculty and staff as well as award recipients expressed thanks and appreciation to YES and further appealed for support to be given in all its forms to enable and empower the organization to carry out its mission, vision and core values.