Poised for greatness with Althea Laing
English author P.G. Wodehouse once said, “At the age of 11 or thereabouts, women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later 70s.” One phenomenal woman nurturing poise and grace in young ladies all over Jamaica is Althea Laing.
Laing has dedicated 25 wonderful years to the growth and personal development of women through the creation of her summer programme. Today, she shares her story.
Inspired by her time spent working part-time at the Barbizon School of Modelling in Maryland, in the United States, she decided not only to conceptualise this life-changing initiative, but to put it into affirmative action. “It was interesting to see the number of students who attended this six-week programme and noticed the change in their behaviour and the confidence which they exuded at the end of the course. It was my belief that this training could change our girls here in Jamaica.” Exposed to social conduct and etiquette while attending Hampton School in St Elizabeth, this training impacted her ability to fit in socially during her stint as an international model.
The summer programme, geared to juniors ages eight to 11 and pre-teens and teens ages 12 to 16, is an intensive one-week workshop which consists of motivation, confidence building, the art of communication, public speaking, poise and posture, social graces and etiquette, wardrobe planning (teens), coping with peer pressure and bullying, teens and mental health. “At the end of the programme, the young ladies will definitely impact any environment in which they are placed and be engaged in lifelong self-development.”
Seeing personal development as a necessity for one’s life, because it promotes positive behavioural changes, this long-term process is for persons to assess their skills and qualities, taking into serious consideration individual aims and setting goals in an effort to maximise their greatest potential. The programme has been doing exceptionally well over the years, and Laing is happy to receive the many reminders from past students on the impact that she made on their lives.
Among the students who have participated in this programme and have since been high achievers in their respective fields include Alysia Moulton-White, assistant vice-president of marketing at Sagicor Group; Zara Redwood, former Miss Jamaica Universe, who is a Phd candidate in Australia; Nicole Haughton, a former Miss Universe Jamaica, who is the corporate planning and strategic management specialist at the Tourism Product Development Company Ltd (TPDCo); Nadine Thomas, a former Miss Jamaica Universe who is now a brand manager at Cari-Med Limited, and Jacqueline Walker Johnson, editor of the Beyond Woman Magazine.
The survivor with great tenacity has weathered the storm of a business partner who didn’t share the same core values. She also experienced hardship due to lack of sponsorship. “Corporate Jamaica does not see it fit to sponsor a programme of this nature, which enhances morals and values in the society. My belief in a programme of this nature has fuelled my desire to continue. In many instances, it has only been a break-even situation or loss, but knowing that I have impacted a life makes a lot of difference. It is simply about fulfilling purpose. I am of the belief that soon it will be profitable, as my sights are now set on a bigger picture as I am in discussion with an academic institution to offer a certificate course which will be accredited.”
So what’s next? Now retired and a private tutor in English language and literature, she has a new partnership to be announced with one of Jamaica’s innovative schools for implementation in September 2019. She has also partnered with Mothers Of Jamaica to conduct a course this summer in the western part of Jamaica over a three-week period, which will include grandmothers and mothers as well. Her dream is to go mainstream in high schools and universities, along with making a lasting impact in each parish in Jamaica. “I also offer training to corporate Jamaica in areas under my image-enhancement programme, which includes social conduct, customer service, communication, to name a few of the areas which are tailor-made to corporate needs. I offer staff development for educators and student image enhancement when requested in schools. I am also a nurturing grandmother; this is a full-time job, and I’m currently completing my first autobiography.”
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to fuel your passion. “Believe that your dreams will be fulfilled, regardless of the naysayers. Place your blinkers on and ride into the sunset. Pray and seek inspiration: Reverend Marie Berbick, my mother Carmen Reynolds and my aunt Cynthia Gordon have been my constant source of inspiration over the years.”
To sign up for the summer programme, email Althea Laing: email@example.com or call: 876-521-0405.