Boldon, right, and Michael Phillips sign autographs for
students of Ste Madeleine Secondary last Friday. The two
athletes were there to speak to students as part of the
Making a Difference School Tour Guardian in Education Project.
Photo: Tony Howell
One had a baby on the way at 18, the other struggled to
make it in a junior secondary school, with murmurs all around
the extended family on his gloomy future.
Its something which happens to many of us, but for
retired Olympic medallist Ato Boldon and national cyclist
and painter, Michael Phillips, it was adversity that caused
them to make a U-turn and put them on the right track.
Their motivational talks at Ste Madeleine Secondary School
last Friday were not planned this way. It was unease among
the teenage students which spurred such detailed testimonies
from Phillips and Boldon, unearthed by steupsing and an
initial lack of enthusiasm from the student body.
The duo are part of the Making a Difference School Tour
Guardian in Education Project, which has been taking them,
along with Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam, West Indies
cricket captain Brian Lara and Olympic silver medallist
George Bovell III, to schools throughout the country.
The five celebrities have been sharing their experiences
in overcoming obstacles to achieve success with students,
who will then be asked to submit essays on the discussion
for a chance to win prizes.
Boldon revealed that he was still a child when he became
a father at 18. Phillips said it was his cycling abilities
which gave him the opportunity to attend his dream school,
Queens Royal College, after writing the 14-plus exams
at Mucurapo Junior Secondary.
Boldon, who had flown seven and a half hours from Los Angeles
to T&T, seemed jet-lagged, but insisted he was there
because he cared about the future of the countrys
At the beginning of his motivational talk, he told them
if they were not interested in what he had to say, or were
too cool for the proceedings, they should leave.
With serious faces looking straight at him, Boldon talked
about his pre-teen years and how devastated the divorce
of his parents left him at ten.
Back then, he said, he made every excuse in the book over
his behaviour and low grades at Fatima College, after leaving
Newtown Boys RC.
He then pointed to a group of boys sitting in a slumped
position as if they were not interested.
group there was me...I understand fully, he said.
other words, nothing that was going on was important enough
for me to give it 30 per cent of my attention because I
knew I was going to leave here some day, go by my family
in the (United) States, get a job...I pretty much had it
of you have it figured out...but you are totally wrong,
cause life never happens in a straight line.
Boldon, who eventually went to live in the US, described
himself as a resident alien, with no job and the frightening
news that he had a daughter on the way.
thought that was the end of me, he said.
But, he said it was adversity and the emotions of fatherhood
that fuelled his yearning to become an Olympic star.
In 1992, the year his daughter was born, Boldon also won
the World Junior Championships.
is where you need to pay attention, he said.
time you are faced with adversity, that is when you have
your greatest chance to not only prove those around you
wrong, but to show yourself what you are made of.
Both celebrities then warned students about getting caught
up in the mega advertising campaign, which they said traded
good values for sneakers, jewelry, clothes and cars.
Phillips, who is also a professional artist and Beacon Insurances
corporate communications manager, said, That does
not make you a man.
Phillips, who used painting as a source of income for funding
himself in the cycling arena, based his talk on the choices
young people had to make while building their dreams.
He said he was influenced by his mother, Louise Arjoon,
and art teachers, and stunned students with some of his
creations, adding that one of his paintings was sold for
Looking at the faces of students in awe at the figure he
had quoted, he said, And who would have thought a
child from a junior sec would go so far?
Phillips also called on students in the packed hall to read
between the lines of gimmickry and advertisements.
More than that, he said, it was up to individuals to choose
friends who would assist them positively in their long-term
Phillips advised students to know their worth.