Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Rescued from ‘tragedy’ - How mentorship transformed ‘at risk’ youngsters at Annotto Bay High

Published:Saturday | October 10, 2020 | 12:13 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Patricia Scott and her son Jahiem Powell.
Patricia Scott and her son Jahiem Powell.
right: Martel Morgan with her son Malick McIntosh.
right: Martel Morgan with her son Malick McIntosh.
From left Malick McIntosh with Principal Trudy-Ann Philp and Jahiem Powell.
From left Malick McIntosh with Principal Trudy-Ann Philp and Jahiem Powell.

“Very tragic” is how 17-year-old Malick McIntosh described the path he was on, before enrolling in an intensive mentorship programme at Annotto Bay High School in St Mary.

His father was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity when he was 10, leaving him torn.

McIntosh began losing interest in school and disclosed that he got involved in gang activities.

Yesterday, he smiled and thanked his school administrators for their intervention.

“I’ve made a lot of changes, even academically. I sat seven subjects and I passed six out of it. I plan to do math again,” he told The Gleaner.

His mother, Martel Morgan, shared that her son had a high temper and as a single parent, she leaned on the dean to be a male figure and to provide moral support.

“I just thank God for the dean and Miss Philp for this programme. I saw a lot of changes. I can sit him down and talk to him and he listens,” she said.

His mother added that she was anxious about how he would perform in the recent Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

But when she saw the results, “I was happy. I hug him and kiss him. He made me proud,” Morgan recounted.

Mentorship programme intensified

Principal Trudy-Ann Philp told The Gleaner that the mentorship programme was intensified in 2016, shifting to an individual approach.

“We broke them up into smaller groups of five and we found that it was more effective than having all the boys in a room and inviting speakers,” Philp shared.

Twenty-five males were identified and matched with mentors in various professions.

“Since I’ve been here 2004, we have made tremendous improvement in terms of eliminating gangs, getting our boys to find a sense of purpose and it is also about how we love them at school,” the principal explained.

She pointed out that the school is located in a volatile community where conflicts would often spill over in the institution.

Jahiem Powell, another mentee, often had friction with students and those in authority.

His metamorphosis from at-risk to thriving and substandard academic performance to excelling is an experience he is proud of, as he has renewed hope in himself and his family.

The young men were a part of the small group mentored by Rev Travis Drummond of Annotto Bay Baptist Church.

One of the most valuable takeaways he had from the sessions was creating a study plan.

“I never used to study before and I accomplished five subjects out of six, with four grade twos and a three. I’m proud of myself because I studied very hard,” he said with a wide smile.

Powell reasoned that if he had been introduced to the mentorship programme earlier in high school, he would have avoided some situations.

“Community dispute always come over more time. At times I get in fights at school and end up reach a di station couple time,” he recalled.

Powell desires to see his mother retire early as she has sacrificed a lot for him and his siblings.

“My mother work very hard and she only get one day off. She has four of us and just to keep up the home, she goes to market on a Friday.”

Powell wants to bring peace to the warring factions in Annotto Bay as it is damaging the minds of the youth.

“Whole heap a body wi walk pass and see. More time yuh go a yuh bed and yuh memba dem tings deh,” he said slowly.

His mother, Patricia Scott, said she welcomed the intervention because she always wanted the best for him.

She had to visit the school very often for meetings about her son’s conduct but now, he is calmer and has become a dependable child.

Dean of Discipline Olanzer Cameron collaborated with the various stakeholders and provided transportation for the students to attend sessions twice per week.

Each session would include discussions, assistance with CSEC preparation, prayer and personal development advice.

“We were having issues among the boys - being disruptive, disrespectful, weapon possession, underperforming and gambling,” he detailed.

“Grade 11 teachers started to outline that if they continue on this path, they will definitely make the graduation list and we were really looking forward to that but COVID has dampened that,” Cameron said.