‘Homework Centre groomed me’
William Mitchell has been telling stories of those whose voices are unheard – a reporter at Nationwide Network, beyond his daily job of searching for and reporting stories, he has one of his own to tell.
Against all odds, Mitchell managed to overcome the unfavourable circumstances of living in an inner-city community while also growing up without his parents in the care of only his older sister.
“I didn’t grow up with my father, and my mother left to live in the States when I was in grade five,” he said. “When I was growing up, Parade Gardens was much worse than it is right now in terms of violence and killings. We grew up with a lot of that around us.”
He says that at the age of 13, he found out about Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation’s homework centre – The Learning Institute of Central Kingston, located at 74 Tower Street in downtown Kingston.
It functioned as a safe haven for him and other youth from the divided Southside and Tel Aviv areas there.
“This was one of the safest places in the community where people would say, ‘children are in there, let’s not do anything here’, or, ‘class ah over now, so let’s not do anything here’,” Mitchell said.
Luckily for Mitchell, he met Dr Curtis Sweeney at the centre. The counselling psychologist and programme coordinator at Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation, would eventually guide the Campion and St George’s Colleges past student in finding his love for journalism after noting his love for the English Language.
Mitchell explained, “I had just finished CAPE and SAT, and at the time, I got good grades that would have gotten me into university with full scholarships if I were an American. So I was kind of in limbo. And I spoke with Mr Sweeney as the programme offers career counselling, and he said: ‘you’re good at English and at writing, why not do something that will allow you to be good at English and writing like you are?’”
To sum it up: the rest is history.
This year, on Labour Day, Mitchell headed back to the homework centre to assist with beautifying it.
Their six homework ventres and 1 STEM Center across the island serve over 700 students from the Kingston, Spanish Town, and Savanna-la-Mar cities, with volunteer teachers assisting students from grade four to beyond high school.
Tanketa Chance-Wilson, general manager of the Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation, said: “Our original homework centre [downtown] started over 30 years ago. Especially at that time, children there needed a safe space where they could complete homework assignments while socialising with adult supervision.”
Mitchell is just one of the many success stories originating from the development of the centre.
Michelle Peters-Mullings, who oversees its operations, said, “I believe in the development of underserved communities, and so for GraceKennedy to accept it as their corporate social responsibility speaks volume for the company.”
Mitchell, a self-described “consummate troublemaker”, advises all students both at the centre and islandwide to always stay focused on their education.
“Give yuh trouble, but know your boundaries and, most of all, know when to settle down. There are a lot of persons from the community, not only myself, who have made it from tough circumstances, and you can do it, too. Lean on your support,” he said. “This programme is still a big support for me. Don’t believe if you’re not getting the help you need it’s not there. Just ask for it, and it will come.”