Justices of the Peace to the rescue
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
The St Ann Justices of the Peace Association (SAJPA) has taken a bold step in attempting to help at-risk youth in the parish by launching the Students Take Ownership Mentorship Programme (STOMP) in six high schools in St Ann.
SAJPA is collaborating with the Guidance and Counselling Unit of the Ministry of Education Region Three to provide what is described as a structured mentorship to at-risk students at the Aabuthnott Gallimore, Brown's Town, Ferncourt, Marcus Garvey Technical, Steer Town Academy and York Castle high schools.
The launch took place Tuesday evening at the St Ann's Bay Parish Church Hall, with the mentorship programme scheduled to commence at the start of the new academic year in September.
Guest speaker, education officer at the Ministry of Education Region Three, Karlene Segree, commended the JPs for their vision to create the programme and conveyed the ministry's full support.
She said the launch was more than just a launch but a celebration of a partnership between the SAJPA and the Ministry of Education.
Segree observed that teachers were spending too much time correcting the behaviour of students, thus impacting the teaching process, but with STOMP, there is, now hope for a change.
"STOMP will stomp out some of the close and present danger," Segree argued.
The project is being chaired by Norman Johnson and the goal is to provide intervention and prevention services through mentorship to 60 grade nine or 10 students who are at risk of educational failure, teen pregnancy, truancy or juvenile delinquency.
These students will be identified by the guidance counsellors.
The objectives of the programme include providing participants with a vital sense of belonging and that the greater community also cares about them; support them on their journey to discover their true potential by instilling life and leadership skills; promote personal and social responsibility among them; provide them with access to resources necessary to improve academic performance and achieve social success; and discourage the use of illegal drugs, involvement in violence, gangs and other delinquent activities.
Expected outcomes include improved academic performance, better school attendance rates, higher confidence levels, a pool of future student leaders and peer educators, and work experience for participating students.
Custos Norma Walters told Rural Xpress that it was becoming increasingly obvious that something needed to be done to assist the youth, hence the birth of STOMP.
Stomping out evil
"The St Ann Justices of the Peace Association decided to get together and to work with significant partners to develop the programme called STOMP to stomp out whatever evil we can, in anticipation of what can undermine the character and development of our most precious resources, our young people," Walters said.
Walters said the programme would be reviewed as necessary and the association will take on more schools as time goes by. She said results of the intervention programme could become visible from the early stages.
"Sometimes, the young people just need an immediate personal intervention," Walters pointed out. "I always say they are like wet cement, whatever falls on them will stick and we're hoping that this will be a positive intervention that will make a difference. We're very hopeful. We live in a wonderful country and we have excellent young people and we have excellent adults, who know that what they take on, we expect nothing else but success."
Meanwhile, guidance counsellor at the Brittonville campus of Ferncourt High, Renee Barrows, believes that STOMP will yield positive results.
"I know it will have a positive impact because I had something similar going on at the campus that I work," Barrows explained.
"I've gotten mentors to come in and work with the students so that they can understand the impact of their behaviour and take responsibility for some of the actions they would have taken, and I've seen where it has reaped results. So with this being launched now and it's under an official body, the SAJPA, I believe we will have more success stories."