Youth development academy rises from the ashes of COVID

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Viv Gardner is a runway model, trainer and owner of Next Development Academy in Nelson Mandela Bay. Photo: provided

AFTER having to cancel all events due to the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with business partners and senior models abandoning ship, a local youth development agency rose from its proverbial ashes and is now doing even better than before.

Next Development Academy, located in the northern areas of Nelson Mandela Bay, is a non-profit organization that was established in 2017 to help young people reach their full modeling potential.

The NGO’s co-founder and now sole owner, Viv Gardner, says that although the organization’s aim was initially to develop modeling skills, the spectrum widened after various talents were discovered among the applicants. interested.

“Our mission is to develop, empower and equip young people with a passion to grow. Being a runway model myself and having to travel far, I wanted to start something in the northern regions and the idea was to open a modeling academy.

“However, it turned into a development academy to teach and equip our youngsters. Apart from track training, we try to develop different skills in our youngsters from the entertainment industry and even doing charity work.

Gardner explained that at the height of the pandemic, the NGO faced serious challenges and the organization nearly went off the rails.

“During the pandemic, all of our events had to be cancelled; some of our sponsors pulled out and even my business partners left. Although it was very difficult to get back on track, I kept the vision and dreams of this academy alive through prayer.

He added that over the past year most of the academy’s senior models have split and lost interest in the organization.

“In February 2022, more than 40 new young people registered to be part of the academy.

“As I am the sole owner, manager and track coach at the academy, three of my senior models have stepped up and been very helpful to me in (helping) the new members.

“New sponsors have joined us and are helping us with training venues and events.

“Event companies are asking to use our templates at their local events, which is great exposure for our academy.

“Watching these youngsters and seeing how passionate and determined they are makes me, as a young man, more eager and determined to lead this academy to greatness,” he said.

Gardner mentioned that since the academy is a non-profit organization, it also relies heavily on sponsors and help from the community, and even in this regard, its role models have gone the extra mile.

“Our highly trained role models volunteer their time and effort to help out at local events within our community, whether it’s being ushers and greeting guests at the gates or escorting them to their seats, to visit retirement homes to pamper our elderly.

“They undertake various projects within the community because at this academy we believe in giving back to others because that is how we grow.

“I can’t thank them enough for all of their sacrifices,” Gardner said.

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