School #3 – Cumberland High School
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
TALK UP YOUT SCHOOL TOUR
Hopewell High School-#2
Date: September 17, 2013
The Second Stop on the Talk Up Yout School Tour
KINGSTON, 19 September 2013: Travelling the South Coast Route from Kingston to Hanover is a feat of no mean order, yet, The Talk Up Yout team led by Emprezz Golding, powered by UNICEF, National Bakery, Purewater, and accompanied by a representative of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network & Steppa made the roughly 4 hour journey to give the students of Hopewell High School their chance to TALK UP! The excitement of the students was so infectious that before long the entire team felt energized and ready to hear the issues faced by the youths in Hanover.
The panel at Hopewell High School included Emprezz, Steppa,Donmarie Latouche (NCYD-Youth Empowerment Officer, Hanover), the guidance counselor of Hopewell High School and 5 five students, representative of each year group. The audience was comprised of almost 200 students and teachers of Hopewell High.
The students of Hopewell High unleashed a deluge of issues such as the Poor Operation of Schools, Poor Transportation Conditions, High School Dropouts, Teenage Pregnancy, Homosexuality, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Teenage Prostitution, Drugs including Marijuana, Lack of Parental Guidance, Moral Degradation, Loss of Community Parenting, Child Abuse, Premature Sexual Activity, Delinquent Fathers and Mothers, Rape, Juvenile Delinquency, Neglect and Abandonment, Suicide, Depression, Cutting and other forms of Self-Mutilation (e.g. Sewing one’s hands), Spousal Abuse, Illiteracy, Over-Exposure to Sexually Charged Material/Images and Indiscipline in Schools.
Much of the day’s discussion was centered on finding the causes and solutions of all of these issues, especially the ones the students identified as particularly prevalent. These included Child Abuse, Neglect and Abandonment and Self-Mutilation. Students were eager to share their personal experiences as well as those they had witnessed. Some students got emotional and had to be counseled by Talk Up Yout counselors separately.
One girl in particular seemed to have been holding so much trauma and pain inside of her that she broke down in tears and could not even express herself with words. Several students in the audience shared horror stories of mothers telling their children that they (the mothers) should have aborted them, telling them now that they ought to “gwaan guh dead”. Students spoke of overhearing parents abusing their children verbally and physically, and most importantly they spoke of how they felt in those situations and the feeling of not knowing who to turn to, not having anyone to confide in.
The Guidance Counselor of Hopewell High Ms. Thomas spoke of some of the issues that she, in her capacity as Guidance Counselor faces such as the reticence of parents to become involved in the life of the school and the lives of their children. Donamarie Latouche: The NCYD’s Youth Empowerment Officer agreed with her and said that parents are more likely to come to school when a student’s phone has been confiscated than for PTA meetings or any consultation at all with teachers.
Throughout the program the panelists, especially Emprezz, often left the stage to talk to the students who were sharing their experiences for the first time. Several students while speaking amongst themselves noted that, never before had anyone ever come to them and asked them how they felt, and what they were dealing with. Emprezz shared many uplifting quotations from people such as Marcus Garvey and Kofi Annan with the students and counseled them, encouraging them to believe in themselves, reminding them of the various agencies that exist solely to protect them from the kinds of situations they are facing.
A representative from the Office of the Children’s Registry gave the students the contact numbers of the various agencies that they can contact for help and UNICEF handed out help stickers to each child with similar information.
Although, the issues at Hopewell High and in Hanover are dire and need immediate response from the various authorities, there are success stories. There are phenomenal students, who, despite facing mammoth problems, have found little solutions to help combat their pain. One student, related to all present, how she uses dub poetry and music to take her to a place where she is safe, to heal herself, and she has since stopped turning to self-mutilation to keep her sanity. Several students gave performances after which Steppa performed to bring the day’s activities to a close.
Next Stop: Cumberland High School in St. Catherine. Students, get ready to Talk Up!
Written by Kristeena Monteith
At 12:05 in the afternoon, on Friday, September 13, 2013 the TALK UP YOUT team led by Emprezz Golding and accompanied by representatives from the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, UNICEF, the National Centre for Youth Development and powered by National Baking Company and Purewater began the journey to the Tivoli Gardens High School for the first stop on the TALK UP YOUT School Tour. The day’s activities began with a panel discussion
moderated by Emprezz with panellists Steppa, Agent Sasco, a teacher at Tivoli Gardens High
School Mr Felton Robinson and five students who represented forms 1 to 5. The beautiful
students of Tivoli Gardens High School welcomed the chance to talk up and raised several
issues without any prompting. The panel discussion spanned an array of issues such as
Gun Violence, Bleaching, Sexual, Physical and Verbal Abuse and Rape, Emotional Pain, Peer
Pressure, Neglect, Juvenile Delinquency, Bullying, Depression, Sex, Teenage Pregnancy, the
distribution of condoms in schools and the negative influences of the media.
The students on the panel spoke confidently and openly of the issues affecting their
communities and Jamaica at large and were able to identify not only the causes of some of
these issues but also possible solutions. Students in the audience were encouraged to highlight
their issues and to comment on the various topics discussed as the afternoon progressed
and some of the more charismatic students gave examples of some of the issues by pointing
out students who were guilty of bullying or bleaching. Emprezz interacted with the students
throughout the discussion reminding them that they are beautiful, strong, intelligent and
confident students who have a voice that must be heard. This led to one student in particular
relating to all present his experience with bleaching and his subsequent termination of the
practice because as he put it “Mi nuh know why mi do it” and another, speaking up quite
emphatically about her opinion of older men who prey on the naivety and materialism of young
Emprezz asked thought-provoking questions which highlighted not only the issues faced
by youths in Jamaica, but also the mental effects that these issues have on students. She
demonstrated correlations between the history of Jamaica and the ills that affect the present
day society. Steppa, known extensively for his creative poems on the TALK UP YOUT show,
spoke of his experiences with juvenile delinquents and encouraged the students to never give
up because they always have a choice. Agent Sasco’s parting message was a call for students
and youths on a whole to take responsibility for themselves and their actions and to exercise
caution in their everyday lives so that they never place themselves in vulnerable positions. The
teacher on the panel reminded students to always remember that their futures are determined
by every choice they make. The students were also given help stickers with important
information on where to get help or advice after which they were treated to performances by
Steppa and Agent Sasco.
The issues highlighted by the students at Tivoli Gardens High School are important to the
Jamaican Society, as we can never truly ameliorate the conditions affecting the nation’s
children until we know what these problems are, and how the youths are affected by them.
Talk Up Yout recognizes the necessity of engaging the young minds of the country in stimulating
and uplifting dialogue thus the Talk Up Yout school tour will visit one school in each parish over
the course of the next 3 months. Webisodes of these visits will be available on social media.
Students at Hopewell High in Hanover, get ready to TALK UP when the Talk Up Yout School Tour comes to you.
Written by Kristeena Monteith
Talk Up Yout School Tour Journalist.
Talk Up Yout
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