Three-hundred and fifty students graduated from Baha Mar’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) late last month, with guaranteed job offers to become the newest citizens of the Baha Mar Nation.
Among the graduates were five students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) who are thriving as part of a team at LDI, a non-profit training organization supported by Baha Mar to provide free training in job readiness and life skills.
Baha Mar forged a partnership with Best Buddies International in July 2014, allowing individuals with IDD to join the revolutionary LDI program. Best Buddies was founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989, and over the years Best Buddies International has partnered with organizations throughout the United States and in 50 countries around the world, assisting with training and creating integrated social and employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities including autism and Down syndrome. The partnership with Baha Mar marks the first Best Buddies International venture in the Caribbean.
The students joined LDI’s third class this past July, participating in the day class for men and women ages 16-to-24 years. The intense 16-week day and night classes also provided training for students25 years and older, in areas such as communication and time management, leadership, numeracy and parenting skills. Baha Mar worked with local IDD advocates including Resources and Education for Autism and related Challenges (R.E.A.C.H.) and the Seahorse Institute, to identify students with IDD who would be a good fit for LDI. During the course, the students with IDD were paired with student ‘Buddies’ who provided support and forged meaningful friendships throughout the program.
The program has received the nod of approval from the students, as well as the parents, who have reported tremendous progress among the students since joining the institute during the summer. Teachers and counselors also noted improved self-confidence, self-awareness and job readiness skills that will allow the graduates to transition from training to putting their skills into action as a part of Baha Mar.
Best Buddies Global Ambassadors, Sean Hall and Tripp Prevatt delivered the keynote address. Hall, who has cerebral palsy, and Prevatt have worked together to inspire young people from around the world, telling their story of friendship, endurance and hard work.
Sarkis Izmirlian, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Baha Mar is pleased with the transformative effect LDI is having on our students, their families and the wider community.
“Through LDI, Baha Mar is investing in the future of Bahamians from diverse backgrounds. Baha Mar is not only giving Bahamians the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in their careers, but also providing them the chance to show the world the true soul of The Bahamas, their own true colors. I am in awe of these students – they are the pride of Baha Mar,” said Izmirlian.
Izmirlian welcomed the newest citizens of Baha Mar Nation to the company, reminding the graduates to use the skills and values they learned though LDI to deliver better-than-best service to Baha Mar’s guests. He encouraged all graduates to pay exacting attention to details, create emotional connections with guests, care deeply, have a generous spirit, thrive as part of a team and be strongly committed to Baha Mar’s success.
“Those are the promises you need to keep every single day of your career,” Izmirlian added.
“As the largest resort destination in this hemisphere, the world is about to talk about us. Show them what I know you can do and in the future someone, somewhere will talk about Baha Mar and talk about you.”