Talk Up Yout School Tour - November 29, 2017 - Donald Quarrie High School
Facilitated By Talk Up Yout & Emprezz Golding
Investors in Youth: National Baking Company, CranWata & Stanley & Empress
Kingston, 30 November 2017 — For 40 years Donald Quarrie High School has striven to attain “Excellence through Diligence” and to live up to the legacy of their namesake — legendary Jamaican Olympian Donald Quarrie (CD). It hasn’t been an easy road but on Wednesday, November 29 when the Talk Up Yout Team visited the school for a single school tour event this year — they found an amazing mix of confident, outspoken students eager to talk up about the issues affecting them and to find solutions to these issues.
The school tour began with Talk Up Yout’s premier partner National Baking Company and sponsor CranWata/Wisynco interacting with the students in a one-on- one setting in their classrooms — getting them excited about the session to come and giving them opportunities to win prizes for answering trivia questions and riddles. This also gave the companies an opportunity to learn more about their young customers who enthusiastically praised the brands for taking the time out to meet them.
Then came the auditorium session with hundreds of students, led by Emprezz Golding, who energized the audience with affirmation chants like “I love my mind. I am powerful. I am strong. I am intelligent. I have purpose. You will respect me. I am honorable. My mind is powerful.” Once the students were fully energized they wasted no time in seizing the microphone and using the opportunity to speak up about the real issues they face. Issues like Violence in Schools, Peer Pressure, Misbehaving Students, Corporal Punishment, Child Abuse, Peer Pressure, Bullying and Poverty were the main ones raised by the students on the panel which included Abrahana Robinson of Grade 7, Daniel Needham of Grade 8, Ashley Griffiths of Grade 9, Seyona Sutherland of Grade 10 and Lennardo Green of Grade 11, Omar Seabourne of Grade 12 and Dean of Discipline Mrs. Sheryl Hibbert-Hylton.
However, one of the most impactful moments came when a student, Ashanti Gowie, became emotionally distressed while making an impassioned plea to child molesters. “LEAVE CHILDREN ALONE!” she said firmly, as tears welled in her eyes. “When you molest a child you’re tearing them up inside, you’re mashing up their future.” Her powerful remarks resulted in resounding applause and cheers from her peers. When asked to find solutions to child molestation — most of the students called for harsher penalties for child molesters including life imprisonment and hanging.
Many of the issues raised by other students in the audience were related to the public opinion of the school and they did not hesitate to speak up not only about how their behaviour and that of their peers negatively affected the perception of the school but also spoke directly to their peers urging them to be better behaved. Grade 9 representative Ashley Griffiths also shared her opinions on this issue saying “People say the students behave badly and it’s true. They cuss bad words, lift up their clothes in the buses, loiter in the bus park. Dat nuh mek nuh sense. Some people cuss us but I don’t wrong the people because it’s true. But cussing them won’t make them any better. Talk to us.” Many students in the audience agreed with her and shared their own stories of witnessing their peers defacing public property and fighting each other over slightest disagreements and being disruptive in class, forcing teachers to spend time disciplining them as opposed to teaching.
Grade 8 student, Daniel Needham who represented his year group on the panel raised the issue of students fighting at school and also raised the issue of students being disrespectful to teachers. “When teachers talk to them they want to curse the teachers and all tell them to s*** dem madda.”
While, Dean of Discipline Mrs. Hibbert commended the students for taking an interest in making the school better she largely agreed with the students and pointed out that the school has been addressing these issues by teaching the students proper dispute resolution however she admitted that without their parents re-enforcing these values at home — it is difficult to see real change in the students’ behaviour. “We have them for 5 hours per day. They are at home for 19 hours. When we tell them to get an adult instead of reacting violently — they go home to their communities and see people doing the exact opposite. Only a handful of parents show up to Parent Teacher meetings so we need more support from our students’ families.”
Right throughout the entire session Emprezz led the students in developing solutions to the issues affecting them. One student recommended that the school hold meetings between students and teachers to resolve disputes between them. Another suggested that students who are being led astray by their peers should find new friends who will help them to engage in productive activities. Emprezz also used her own story and life experiences to connect with the students and inspire them. She opened up about her own tumultuous youth — having got into a couple fights herself but learning to resolve disputes more safely and responsibly. She also spoke about the strong men in her life — like her father and husband, and encouraged the young men in the audience to be responsible men and good fathers.
To wrap up the sessions, the students on the panel ended with their final pieces of advice which included “You are the future, be the best you can be”, “Listen to your children and make sure they feel comfortable to come to you and talk to you”, “Let people step into your child’s life and support them, it takes a village to raise a child”, “Stay positive”, “Teachers need to listen to students and help them believe in themselves” and “Change your mind from negative thoughts and behaviours.”
The team from National Baking Company then led the students through a series of fun activities including a dance competition to create a National Bakery dance in which the winning dances were “Butter the bread” and “Run fi di Duplex”. Although this was not a Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue Session, in true #YoutfiChat style civic engagement was included in the activities including opportunities to win prizes by answering questions like, “If I were the Minister of Security, what would I do to solve crime?” or “Why is Talk Up Yout important to you?” to which a student replied “It gives us an opportunity to talk up and we feel like what we have to say is important. We can talk and people listen and that’s not how it always goes in real life.”
Talk Up Yout Sponsor CranWata also revealed the winner of the CranWata-Talk Up Yout Wow Scholarship — Grade 11 student Lennardo Green! He was awarded a scholarship valued at $150,000 for tertiary studies. In Lennardo’s scholarship entry he spoke about doing carpentry, painting and welding work while going to school to “contribute to my family’s budget” and admitted that he is excited to take CSEC next year and become the first person in his family to pass 8 subjects.
It was another amazing Talk Up Yout School Tour to wrap up Talk Up Yout Season 7 as the final episode, episode 10 — “Youth & Community” aired on TVJ at 6 PM. It was an amazing season in terms of public reception and lives changed. The topics covered have resonated with young people around the world and Talk Up Yout remains committed to the mission of “Giving the Youth a Voice”, just like the team did at Donald Quarrie High School.
Written by Kristeena Monteith for Talk Up Yout.
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