Ten rising track and field stars have had their aspirations boosted, courtesy of a collaboration between the Scotiabank Foundation and the National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAATT).
Jenna Marie Thomas, Keneisha Shelbourne, Natalia Eastman, Rasheeda Cave, Kadija Pickering, Mahkaya Mahon, Keone John, Kyle Williams, Jaden De Souza and Omare Thompson are the first recipients of Scotiabank-NAAATT Deon Lendore Bursaries.
At yesterday's launch, at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre in Port of Spain, NAAATT president George Comissiong spoke about the genesis of the athlete development initiative.
"Deon Lendore died tragically in a vehicular accident in Texas earlier this year. We were quite distressed upon learning of his passing, and shortly afterwards the board of NAAATT met in an emergency session to discuss ways in which we could assist his family in their hour of grief and how we could honour the memory of one of our more outstanding athletes.
"We explored a number of options," the NAAATT president continued, "and a few days later some of us visited his family. During the visit I shared with his mother (Chrispina Edmund) and sister (Leah Johnson) some of our thoughts."
One of the presented options stood out.
"To me," Comissiong explained, "his mom was most happy with this one, the Deon Lendore Bursary Programme. She quickly recognised parallels with Deon's early circumstances and the benefits that could accrue to the young athletes selected for the programme. Her response was that she was pleased with what she had heard and that we had her blessings.
"Well Mom, it has taken us a while but with the generous support of the Scotiabank Foundation, we are here today and can witness the initial thoughts become reality."
At yesterday's launch, Comissiong outlined the specifics of the Scotiabank-NAAATT Deon Lendore Bursary initiative.
"The programme is intended to provide support to ten junior athletes who show potential for greatness. It is intended to provide socio-economic support to help mitigate challenges that they may face, to give them that little extra that may be needed so that they can realise their true potential. The athletes are among our country's best; most of them have already worn our national colours and represented the country with distinction.
"Our partnership with Scotiabank Foundation will ensure that each beneficiary receives a bursary of ten thousand dollars annually, to be paid in four quarterly tranches. However, it does not end there. The Foundation has also committed to providing training in areas such as money management and financial independence."
The local governing body for track and field will also provide training for the ten Deon Lendore Bursary recipients.
"NAAATT, on its part, has committed to including the beneficiaries in our athlete development workshops and seminars. By way of example, in the preparation of our Carifta team this year, the athletes were exposed to training on matters associated with drug violations, anti-doping procedures, and on interviewing skills.
"Puma, our official uniform sponsor," Comissiong continued, "has committed to providing training wear and possibly additional funding."
In order to keep their bursaries, the selected athletes must achieve certain academic standards. Eighty percent attendance at school and training and the achievement of performance standards in their respective events are also requirements for the programme.
"I want to encourage the athletes present to seize this golden opportunity to help themselves. We have a one-year commitment from Scotiabank Foundation with the possibility of renewal. You therefore carry the burden on your shoulders to ensure that the Programme is a success," Comissiong stressed, "so that it can continue to benefit both you and others to follow."