This November Nico will graduate the 6th grade.
Three short months later he will celebrate his 17th birthday.
For the past year Nico has been attending the only school that will accept him at his age. Every night he walks the 4 miles it takes to get to school, and most night he walks the 4 miles back dejected after learning yet again that school was canceled for any number of reasons; teacher didn’t show up, no one had keys to open the gate, it’s a Friday…He had never learned to read, and when asked to name a country outside of Honduras his reply was “Las Vegas”. Nico is 6 feet and 5 inches of arms and legs, has a lazy eye, and lives in an environment where exploitation, hunger, and poverty are not the exception but the rule. He knows the words to just about every rap song ever written and is more often than not freestyling some of his own work to anyone who wants to listen.
Nico has a past that includes both theft and drugs, and has a strong family tie to the not so underground culture of cocaine exportation that has dominated the Island the last decade or so.
For the past 6 months, Nico has been attending the WYM FireStarters Boys Group. He also joined WYM’s literacy course where he began using his ability to rhyme to learn to read. But he still struggled everyday walking the line between becoming a product of his environment and creating an environment that will help him break the cycle of poverty that most of Roatan has surrendered to.
Three months ago Nico was swimming in the Sea and stumbled upon 15 pounds of pure powder cocaine carefully packaged and wrapped in a plastic bag. Although it is not uncommon for the kids of the Island to come across the after effects of an airplane drop gone wrong, or an attempt to avoid a bust; it is uncommon for them to do what Nico did next. He picked it up, walked it to his Uncle’s door step, dropped it, and walked away. This might not seem like what we would call the “right choice” in American culture, but when you are living in a culture where there is virtually no consequence for selling cocaine in mass quantities, convincing a teenager living in extreme poverty to walk away from hundreds of thousands of dollars is not an easy feat. But Nico didn’t need convincing anymore, Nico made that decision all on his own.
When WYM kids show the potential to become positive leaders, every single stone is turned over to give them the opportunities needed for them to succeed. Nico’s stone was sports. So in June of this year, with a lot of hard work and self-discipline (and a few inside connections) Nico was invited to participate in the first Roatan Volleyball League to ever exist; a huge milestone for an Island full of some of the greatest athletic potential in the Caribbean and no outlet for its use. After a lifetime of always being behind, Nico not only found a positive talent, but also a positive male role model in his coach, Manu Dibango Wilmoth Collins. Learning how to play on a team and the importance of each individual’s contribution to that team proved to be a powerful combination for Nico and he soon started making even bigger changes in his personal life to accommodate to his new found empowerment. He stopped making the easy choices, and started making the right ones. Last week the President of the Volleyball Federation came to Roatan to officially inaugurate the Roatan Volleyball League, and with the persistence of WYM and the help of his coach, Nico got a chance to meet him and tell the story of his past and the dream of his future.
Nico walked out of that meeting with an invitation to move to the capital city Tegucigulpa and play on the Honduras National Volleyball Team. He will be given a full scholarship to attend the best private school in the country, a full time tutor, room and board, three healthy meals a day, and a team of people surrounding him who will empower him to succeed on a daily basis. After an initial trial period, Nico will then have an opportunity to travel as a professional athlete representing his country all around the world.
Looking at him now you wouldn’t even recognize him. He’s still all arms and legs, but there is an undeniable spirit of hope that follows him like a shadow bathed in sunlight.
WYM gave him the pebbles, Nico is moving the mountain.