Businesses step in to support budding footballer
A Quin Lema local business rallies behind promising local footballer to help him further his education Photo David Skinner
When up-and-coming footballer Quintonio (Quin) Lema graduates from school this May, it will be a testament not just to his love for the game but the support of the community. Parents Freeman and Shirley Lema could only do so much to put Quin through high school in the US — until a group of local businessmen chipped in to help out. Florida’s Montverde Academy has made its name on two things: college preparation — and athletics.
“I grew up around football,” Quin explained. “When I was four, my friends around the neighbourhood and I would find a ball and play. It got serious for me around age 13, 14. “I can’t really explain it. It’s a love for it. You can also gauge yourself from the players around you. “You look at football on TV and see if you have the skills. I could see myself getting there. If you want it that bad, then you’ll keep doing it.”
His first football club was Boulevard, the Pembroke teen said, but he was drawn to the Bermuda Athletic Association by the coaching of technical director Kenny Thompson. Passion for football aside, Quin acknowledged the troubles of his home neighbourhood, where people he knew have fallen victim to gun violence. Over time, he came to see football as an avenue to a better life.
Meanwhile, a group of businessmen learned of his potential from Saltus Grammar School athletics director Darrien Lewis and BAA President John Doran.
“John and Darrin made an effort to raise funds to help me go away to school,” Quin said. “That’s how I got to where I am now. They have raised money to help me pay for my school fees. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.” Mr Lewis recommended Montverde on the strength of its coaching and academics. This May, Quin will graduate. “The first year was really tough on me,” he said. “The schoolwork was much harder, the training was much more serious. “We were waking up at 5am to train, then taking classes all day, practising again for a couple of hours and then studying in the dorm. It was a big change in environment. “I kept thinking about the sacrifice that people did for me to be there. I’d be really disappointed to let them down. You keep strong, and keep thinking how in the end it’s going to pay off.”
Montverde carries a hefty reputation: if Quin’s team wins next week’s Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament, “it could make us the number one team in the US”, he said. The Montverde team is currently top of the Florida State rankings for high school football. With football in his blood, Quin dreams of a career in the sport, but he’s had to maintain a strong academic standing as well.
“I have a scholarship for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro,” Quin told The Royal Gazette. “I plan to study and continue football. I hope to get good enough to become pro. If not, I’ll get me degree and come back and work in business.”
It’s no secret where his heart lies, but Quin conceded that getting where he wants won’t be easy. Aside from thanking his local supporters, he said: “I would really like to thank my parents. They took a lot of sacrifices for me, and without that I wouldn’t be here.” As for the team of Bermuda executives helping Quin’s education, Hiscox Bermuda Senior Vice President Ian Thompson said he had learned of Quin’s potential from working at the BAA with Mr Doran and Mr Thompson.
“John said that BAA would look to help to fund his education, but Montverde was a prestigious high school, which wasn’t cheap and would be looking to the business community to help out,” Mr Thompson said. “I believe others were involved as well, but the bulk of the funding was simply a bunch of guys putting their hands in their pockets — some of us know each other through working together, some through football, largely expatriates — and one or two Bermudians — who all love sport and are keen to give a little back to the island.
“The idea was that rather than going out this weekend, let’s pass it onto Quin, so around 20 of us initially put in $250, and that has steadily grown.
“Obviously it’s worked out really well, as Quin’s football, his GPA, and his attitude have been first class.”
Useful website: www.montverde.org.