Fri | Nov 15, 2019

Getting girls to Flourish and boys to Roar

Published:Saturday | November 9, 2019 | 12:27 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Jahime Ashley is one of the many students benefiting from the Flourish and Roar mentorship programmes.
Lathaniya Williams, student of Pembroke Hall High, is one of Fiona Burke’s mentees on a mission.
Fiona Burke (second left), founder of the Flourish Mentorship Programme, poses with her team of volunteers at Pembroke Hall High School. From left are Britney Clarke, Jheanell Daley, Joylyn Miller and Odette Marshall.
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Change. That’s the message that inspires teenagers at Pembroke Hall High on a warm Monday afternoon, embracing a bigger mission than their frolicsome schoolmates fraternising on the compound after a long day of classes.

Jahime Ashley is testament to the work of the Flourish, a mentorship programme that aims to encourage affirmation and self-worth.

“I’ve changed a little bit, because I want to make myself better ... . Mi never did waah go and dem (his parents) seh mi haffi go, cause it’s serious,” said Jahime, who admitted that he was chosen because of misconduct and irregular class attendance.

The 14-year-old said he now has a more positive perspective on his future – especially if he modifies his behaviour.

Keila Kelly, a grade nine student, said she has a renewed drive for school.

“I started pressing from Sunday, which I don’t normally do, combing my hair and waking up early.”

She added: “I was selected because I think they want me to acknowledge who I really am. It has helped me because I have a dream, and they say a dream without a plan is just a wish, so they have pushed me further to accomplish what I want and to see what I am here for,” Kelly said.

A shy Lathaniya Williams only had a few words. “It mek me understand seh mi fi guh a class and do my work and listen to the teachers. They have helped us and in turn I want to help other kids,” she said.

The school’s guidance counsellor, Joylyn Miller, explained that the participants were handpicked from grades eight and nine.

“We had a behavioural intervention programme and some of them did well, so we decided that now that we have passed this stage, they now need to be mentored. Also, we have some high achievers that have gained 60 per cent average and up, so we decided that we just don’t want them to do well educationally – we want them to be rounded,” Miller said.

Promising future

Last Monday when The Gleaner visited, behavioural specialist and field officer at RISE Life Management Services, Andish Williams, was observed motivating with the mentees about recognising their value as promising members of society.

That pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps philosophy is what drove Fiona Burke to establish the Flourish Mentorship Programme in 2015, having become increasingly concerned about the conduct and character of young people in her community.

“There were complaints about the girls in the bus park or in the buses, and I was seeing girls who went to my high school on the road doing stuff that we could never dream of doing and getting away with on the road – being brawling and eating on the road,” Burke said.

She concluded that she could make a real difference by targeting girls aged 13 to 18 years.

“I said, you know if me and people like me come together and sit with a few of them and tell them the stuff that we learnt from our life experiences, then maybe that would make a difference,” Burke said, adding that the sessions were usually held on the weekends in Red Hills.

Helping boys, too

Since its start-up at Pembroke Hall in September, Burke has had to create a similar programme, Roar, for boys at the co-ed school.

Burke is supported by a member of the school’s guidance department and a few teachers. She has also partnered with a wholesale in the community to provide refreshments for each session.

She said: “There are a few people who I recruited; they are scheduled every other week. So every week, it’s a different speaker that is invited to come and focus on the main topic.”

Burke, who, along with her team, makes visits to other schools across the island to do empowerment talks, hopes to get financial support and the help of more volunteers to widen her reach.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com