It takes a village to raise a child. The same can be said of Keni Outerbridge, who with the encouragement of his teachers and family, has seen the benefits of a “hands-on” style of learning in his work with America’s Cup SoftBank Team Japan.
The 15-year-old had been given the opportunity to work with the team after Reeshemiah Darrell, educational therapist assistant at Sandys Secondary Middle school, saw his struggles in the classroom.
She said that she saw “true potential” in him, adding that he “may not be strong academically, but he can be strong in his work”.
Keni started working with the team on Tuesdays from 2pm to 3pm, and eventually added weekends to his workload. He would clean boats, as well as any tools that were beginning to rust.
He also performed supervised welding and woodwork, said Patrice Phillips, the personal assistant to CEO Dean Barker who also facilitated the programme.
Tyson Lamond, Shore Manager, stated: “His main responsibilities have been working with the Chase Boat team and helping people out in the yard. He would be an asset to anyone he works with and he’s done an excellent job with the shore team”.
“He doesn’t say much about his job,” admitted his grandmother, Jean Outerbridge, “but he takes pride in it. Just to see him take pride in his work and enjoy himself, he’s the boy that I know. It’s a blessing,”
Keni was also able to bond with some of the members of SoftBank Team Japan who were able to relate to his need for “hands-on” learning. Chase Boat Captain Shaun Mason said: “I was actually a lot like him at school. As long as he keeps the positive attitude, he will be fine in this industry.”
Andrew Burgess, head of On Water Operations, said: “He shows good enthusiasm and is always asking how he could help out. He never just sits back or hides away in the shed. He is always willing to get in and learn, and is very curious about the work and learning new things. He really takes the initiative.”
Both Keni’s family and his teachers have seen a positive change in him.
“He’s more responsible and his attitude has improved,” said his mother.
Ms Phillips noticed that he wasn’t how his teachers initially described him, stating: “He’s well behaved.”
As a thanks for all of his hard work, the team decided to surprise Keni at his recent graduation, when he was gifted with not only his certificate for community service hours, but a poster that held all of the team’s signatures.
Keni was one of the few students at Sandys Secondary Middle School who agreed to participate in the work placement programme.
Ms Darrell said: “It only takes one person to show a student that they’re worthy. It only takes one to make a difference.”
“It teaches students the value of labour,” explained Dr Emilygail Dill, the educational therapist at the school. “It shows them that each member of the work force plays a vital role.”
Ms Darrell thanked Ms Phillips and SoftBank Team Japan for their “hard work and dedication in making Keni’s work placement a success”.
She added: “Patrice has a heart of gold and is a true gem. Moving forward, I would like to continue on this journey come next school year.”
Keni will continue working with the team until next month, after which he will start working with his grandfather, a fisherman, on his boat. Following his graduation, he plans on attending a technical school in England next year.