Rebel Salute partners with police on youth initiative
Organisers from the Caribbean's largest reggae festival, Rebel Salute, have pledged their support for a pioneering initiative by Area Two Police that aims to engage young people throughout the parishes of St Mary, St Ann and Portland.
Speaking last week at an event to launch the inaugural inter-parish Schools Debating Competition, the Rebel Salute Foundation (RSF)'s media and communications officer, Maxsalia Salmon, said the contest was a great way to stimulate intellectual development among young people in the region.
She told Rural Xpress: "The RSF stands firm in its commitment to support the development of young Jamaicans, and with Rebel Salute moving to the north coast, we have decided to become a greater part of the community.
"We are very proud of what is happening here because we see this competition as a great opportunity and platform for developing great citizens."
After confirming the RSF would be donating $100,000 towards the competition, Salmon added: "As a former debater, I know debates are a great avenue and platform to help us stimulate critical thinking and social development, which is very important.
"Debates also help with partnership building because they show how people can disagree with each other and have different opinions, but still work together and coexist.
"On that level, this is a great opportunity for citizens and the police to interact and I'm proud of Area Two for initiating this initiative and more than happy to be a part of it."
Over the next our weeks, the best high school teams from St Mary (St Mary High), St Ann (St Hilda's) and Portland (Titchfield) will challenge each other in a series of oratory battles, culminating with a grand finale at Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios on Tuesday, February 10.
Assistant Commissioner of Police for Area Two, Ealan Powell, noted that his division is the safest in the country and believes initiatives that encourage youths to resolve their issues through discussion rather than violence are essential if the region is to continue enjoying relatively low rates of crime.
He said: "Our aim is to change how people think and speak, and the respect we have for each other because debating is about respecting other people and their views. You may win some and you may lose some, but at the end of the day, you have engaged, and that's why this project is so important.
"I really can't underscore the significance of engaging with our young people because if we can change the mind, we will change the soul."
Powell called for greater participation from parents and praised the teachers and police officers who help the students prepare for the competition, which operates under the theme 'Developing Partnerships through Dialogue'.
He added: "Parents are there to guide and it would be good for them to know and appreciate what the students are doing because they may even learn a lot from the children.
"I want parents to see for themselves and be involved and proud of their children, and that might motivate them to take better care of their children and be part of the dialogue they are involved in."