From Hobby to Business: Guerta Toussaint
Born in Port Margot, Haiti and raised in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Guerta Toussaint is a young woman determined to give back to her community. A proud alum of Clement Howell High School in Providenciales, Guerta went on to further her education in the USA by attending Broward Collage.
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in supply chain and logistics, a family emergency resulted in Guerta returning home in 2017 to an uncertain future. Despite the personal challenges that came with her premature relocation, failure was never an option. After a few odd jobs, a leap of faith and sustained commitment to self-improvement, she now serves as the purchasing debt administrator at The Palms Turks and Caicos.
The 25 year old is on a journey to help improve not only her local community but to assist in reforming her former high school.
What inspired you to want to give back to your community?
I didn’t have much. I knew what it was like to have a dollar in my pocket and go to school and know that same dollar was going to take me home at the end of school. There were tough days, and lots of people along the way who helped, supported, and gave in so many different ways. When I went away to school, I was able to get a lot of financial assistance. There were so many opportunities, and I recognised that there aren’t many of these types of opportunities at home. People were such an important part of my journey in helping me to get to where I was, so I knew that that was something I wanted to pursue as well – whether it’s sponsoring a scholarship, hosting seminars, or helping people figure out their options for schooling, living or how to better their lives overall.
Which clubs do you assist at Clement Howell High School?
I’ve been home a year now and I’ve been actively looking at ways to get back in and help the community. I assist with the girls club at Clement Howell and try my best to use my resources to help out with meetings and activities as well as give lectures on ways the girls can improve their lives. It is important for them to have positive influences around them, exposing them to new opportunities. One of my personal goals is to help young people understand: even if you are from the lower class community, growing up, that’s not where you need to stay. And when they do get a job, there is more they can do. I want to assist by building structured programmes to empower, encourage, and support the kids in their clubs.
The Tourism Board are big supporters of the new tourism club at Clement Howell, and our tourism club organise community clean-ups once a month, every month. They help to clean-up the school, and upkeep areas on school grounds. The club raises funds and donates to a charity once a month – and no one knows that. The hotel I work for has partnered with them as well as the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association.
What events are you hosting?
The Girls Club will host their end of the year party at the end of July, which was originally supposed to be a sleepover, as these are young teenager girls, but I wanted to change the dynamic. I believe it is important to continuously teach them, without them realising they’re learning. I suggested a seminar where people come in and speak on different topics. I’m going to speak about the power of planning and how it can take you from one level to the next. There is a gentleman coming in to speak about “what guys really want from you”, which should be interesting. We will have lunch and incorporate their etiquette training, and then at the end there will be a question and answer session where they can ask about things spoken about, and then there’s a pool! So this was my way of trying to encourage fun, while also never dismissing the power of subliminal messages.
What types of things is Clement Howell doing for their students and the community?
I really want to help Clement Howell on their journey to fix their reputation and diminish the stigma attached to their name. Unfortunately, the school has a reputation that this is where “regular kids” go. That is not a bad thing, but because there is a lot of disruptive kids there, troubled teens, and kids that feel like fighting is the best way to cope with their problems – normal high school stuff. Clement Howell is the only public school of its kind on the island, and when these kinds of things happen, they get blown up to such a degree that it ultimately becomes the identity of the school. It is very untrue, but when there is a fight, the media covers it, when there is any big disruption, the media covers it. So people who are not involved in what’s happening will only see this side. There is a negative connotation and negative perception that is unfortunately attached to the school. This is the perception I am trying to fight. I want to invite more media outlets to every event we host, to help with the marketing so the school can start to rebrand.
How did you get involved with helping this high school?
As alum, I always knew it was something I wanted to do. An old teacher of mine approached me asking if I could assist her with a project, and from that moment, I became her contact person. I wanted to find out the needs of the school and see what I could do to help. It just kind of propelled – there were all these things they needed. Though I could not take on one particular student, due to my busy work schedule, I could help facilitate clubs and enhance them with what I could bring to the table. I could reach out to organisations that are also willing to help the school.