Serving As U.S. Ambassador To The Bahamas
While serving as Ambassador, Nicole Avant focused on five priority initiatives: Education, alternative energy, economic and small business development, women’s empowerment, and raising awareness about the challenges facing people with disabilities. The U.S. Embassy together with the Ministry of Education continues to sponsor the national Read to Lead Program to encourage the nation’s youth to develop a lifelong love of reading. The Embassy adopted a local inner city school, Woodcock Primary, and Embassy volunteers traveled to the school each week to read to grades 1-6. The Embassy also fostered other educational activities including an annual Martin Luther King Essay Competition for high school students and an annual competition to encourage sustainable practices among Bahamian youth.
At the invitation of Ambassador Avant, leading education reform activist and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoffrey Canada, addressed Bahamian education officials at her residence.
Under the Ambassador’s leadership, Embassy Nassau also partnered with African-American business leaders to strengthen economic ties between the United States and The Bahamas and encourage a diverse economic strategy that stretches beyond the traditional tourism sector. Embassy partners include the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, the Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC), the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD). To enhance this effort, Ambassador Avant hosted Earvin “Magic” Johnson to be the keynote speaker at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Business Development Seminar.
Ambassador Nicole Avant worked to promote the empowerment of women and raise awareness about the challenges facing people with disabilities. Ambassador Avant has personally hosted a number of prominent guests who have participated in outreach events designed to empower youth and impart positive messages about self-esteem and self-image. The Ambassador developed a special relationship with the Williemae Pratt Center for girls, a detention facility for at- risk youth. Grammy winning singer-songwriter, India.Arie and “Access Hollywood” host Shaun Robinson were among the visitors to join Ambassador Avant for visits to the Williemae Pratt Center.
She has also worked closely with local advocacy groups for people with disabilities. Ambassador Avant hosted Eunice and Francesca Shriver, granddaughters of Special Olympic founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Special Olympians from the Bahamas to mark Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day and to raise awareness for Special Olympics-Bahamas. Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Pete were also guest of the Ambassador to raise awareness for REACH, a Bahamian support group for families affected by autism.
While public diplomacy was a key focus for Ambassador Avant, a February 2012 report from the Inspector General’s office on Embassy Nassau praised Ambassador Avant’s "leadership in the areas of law enforcement, security and public affairs;" noting that the Bahamas is a "critical crime threat post."
Separately, in the Inspector's Evaluation Report, the IG team leader stated that Ambassador Avant's public diplomacy activities "generated excellent publicity for the embassy and the United States, demonstrating U.S. interest in the Bahamas."
While the State Department Inspector General's report was generally positive, it was also critical of Ambassador Avant on administrative issues and stated that she was ″often absent from post". The report did note that all travel was approved in advance of her departures, as is State Department policy. Days away from post include official, holiday and weekend travel.
Ambassador Avant overhauled the Embassy management team in her last year at post.
Following a series of family crises, Ambassador Avant resigned her post and returned to private life in November of 2011. She continues to support many of the initiatives she began in the Bahamas and remains a popular figure in the island nation.
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