Parish: St. Catherine
All-Island Tour Powered by Emprezz, UNICEF, National Baking Company, Purewater & Island Grill
Not even the sweltering heat that enveloped the entire corporate area could prevent the Talk Up Yout School Tour from journeying into the Sunshine City, Portmore to visit Cumberland High School. This was the third stop of the tour which is powered by UNICEF, National Baking Company, Purewater and Island Grill and the Talk Up Yout Team was accompanied by representatives of the National Council for Youth Development and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network.
Despite the humid weather the well-behaved students of Cumberland High were obviously excited and eager to help in any way possible. The panel was led by Emprezz and comprised of 5 students, Jay Lue, Taira Vanriel, Kris-Anna Marriott, Juddine Johnson, Aamir Spencer who represented grades 7 through 11 respectively. Also on the panel were the Guidance Counselor Mr.Hutchinson, Senior Programmes Developer at the National Council for Youth Development – Steppa, Youth Empowerment Officers Gihon Mitchell and Simone Green and the 2013 winner of The Rising Stars Television Show – Saxophonist Verlando Small.
Most of the issues raised by the students of Cumberland High School were of a violent nature, whether it was violence against children or violent crimes. These issues included Death, Violence, Crime, Abuse, Drug Abuse, Smoking, Sexual Abuse as well as Low Self Esteem, Peer Pressure, Illiteracy, Child Prostitution, Transactional Sex, Teenage Pregnancy, The Distribution of Condoms inSchool, High School Dropouts, and Stress.
Some of the most memorable moments of the day were equally parts shocking and sad. For example, when Emprezz asked the students to raise their hands if they knew anyone who had lost their lives through violent means and there was scarcely a hand that wasn’t raised.
Student Aamir Spencer gave an emphatic plea to young men in Jamaica to “Wise up and put down the gun.” He touched the hearts of all present when he spoke about the desensitization of youths in his community to crime and violence. According to him, gunshots have begun to sound like firecrackers.
All five students on the panel also agreed that condoms should not be distributed in schools citing reasons such as “A school is a place of learning”, “Students should be focusing on their studies not sex”, “Sex should occur after marriage.”
There was much discussion regarding the issues raised by the panel and other students in the audience and Emprezz encouraged the students to identify solutions to these issues on their own, while providing them with information about agencies such as the Office of the Children’s Registry which exist to protect them in the event that their safety or well-being is threatened in any way.
Verlando Small also gave the students advice on how to be successful in their endeavours, and addressed many of their issues by giving them solutions and anecdotes from his own life.
The Guidance Counselor Mr Hutchinson spoke of the various situations he has dealt with and continues to deal with. He also called out to Corporate Jamaica to refrain from marginalizing youths based on their addresses. He believes this practice helps in perpetuating criminal activity as intelligent and accomplished students cannot find any legitimate means of supporting themselves, thus they turn to criminal activity to “fill that gap.”
Steppa shared many stories of the youths in Juvenile Centres that he works with and pleaded with the students to remain on the path that takes them firmly away from Juvenile Delinquency. He reminded them to remain focused, keep their goals in mind and strive for success.
The students of Cumberland High were treated to a performance from their own talented student Aamir Spencer, Steppa and Verlando Small to bring the day’s activities to a close.
The students of Cumberland High revealed many important issues which youths in Jamaica are facing every day. They eloquently spoke of these issues and used various stories from their own lives to show the far-reaching effects that these issues have had on youths on a whole. The Talk Up YoutSchool Tour is aimed at finding these issues in every parish. Engaging these students in the discussions which affect them is the only way to find meaningful solutions to their issues.
Next Stop: Port Antonio High School.
Written by Kristeena Monteith