School #4 – Port Antonio High School
All-Island Tour Powered by Emprezz, UNICEF, National Baking Company, Purewater & Island Grill
The Talk Up Yout School Tour was welcomed to Portland by cool sea breezes and lush verdant hills; a stark contrast from the heat of Kingston. The tour, which is powered by Emprezz Golding, UNICEF, National Baking Company, Purewater and Island Grill, was accompanied by Shaquani McKenzie who is a representative of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network and Youth Empowerment Officer Dowell Williams.
The panel discussion at Port Antonio High School was moderated by Emprezz and included five students Chavar Johnson, Janelle Hallwood, Kabidi Morris, Shanique Beckford and Ryan Anderson, representing grades 7 through 11. Senior Programmes Development Officer at the National Center for Youth Development and Director of the Forward Step Foundation – Miguel ‘Steppa’ Williams also sat on the panel alongside roots reggae artiste Nature and the Guidance Counselor of Port Antonio High School Mr Bailey.
One major difference between Port Antonio High School and all other schools that the Talk Up Yout School Tour has visited, is that the students did not name crime and violence as one of the issues they face. Their Guidance Counselor, Mr Bailey pointed out that crime and violence levels in Portland are minimal when compared to the levels experienced in the cities and major towns on the South Coast. However, he noted that Domestic Violence is an issue which the students are exposed to.
Other issues raised by both students on the panel and students in the audience included Diseases, namely Diabetes, Stress, Peer Pressure, Bullying, Lack of Parental Guidance, Gambling, Illiteracy, Condoms in Schools, Premature Sexual Activity, Teenage Pregnancy, Suicide, Social Media Safety, Bleaching and Unemployment.
Bullying was an issue which solicited many comments from the students in the audience. Emprezz asked them to identify the bullies in their midst and she spoke to them (the bullies) about the consequences of their actions, empowering them to declare publicly that they would refrain from harassing their peers.
The issue of premature sexual activity also got the students to talk up. When Emprezz asked the students to raise their hands if they knew anyone under seventeen who was pregnant most of the students raised their hands. This sparked a discussion about the factors influencing young people to engage in sexual activity.
One student remarked that parents often force their children to have sex for money, which is then used to support the household. Steppa also commented on the issue, saying that there is a thin line between adults and young people nowadays. He said even the music that young people are exposed to influences them to “dash out” and disregard the sanctity of their bodies.
Nature reminded the students that they have the power to control their natural sexual urges, and encouraged them to be strong and focused. He also weighed in the discussion about bullying by suggesting that cameras be put in schools to monitor the activities of students, a suggestion which all the students agreed to. Remarkably, the representative from grade 10 Shanique Beckford spun the argument around by suggesting that the cameras be used to monitor under-performing teachers, which elicited cheers from her peers in the audience.
At the end of the day the students were entertained by Steppa and Nature, and were given stickers with information about the different agencies such as the Office of the Children’s Registry, that they can call in the case of an emergency or if they want to report a case of child abuse. The panellists were also given Gift Baskets courtesy of National Baking Company.
Emprezz chose to leave the students with inspirational words from Marcus Garvey:
“We must give up that silly idea of folding our hands and waiting upon God to do everything for us. If God intended that, He would not have given us a mind.”
Next Stop: Morant Bay High School, St. Thomas.