Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Eight Jamaicans selected for Obama’s young leaders’ initiative

Published:Monday | August 29, 2016 | 8:28 PM
US president Barack Obama announcing the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative during his visit to Jamaica in April last year.

Eight Jamaicans have been listed among the first 250 young leaders from the Americas as part of an entrepreneurship programme announced by US president Barack Obama during his visit to Jamaica in April last year.

The programme, called the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, is aimed at expanding opportunities for the emerging entrepreneurs and civil society innovators in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The US Embassy says the participants will travel to the United States for a five-week program that will strengthen their leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurial skills and provide networking opportunities with U.S. entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors; Diaspora communities; and among each other to increase connectivity throughout the hemisphere.

The Jamaican participants:


Patria-Kaye Aarons is the CEO of the Jamaican candy company, Sweetie. Sweetie products capture bold, authentic island flavours like mango and guava. Sweetie is distributed to 150 Jamaican retail locations and exports to the US, UK, and Caribbean. She has previously worked on marketing campaigns for Digicel and GraceKennedy. She also worked with Western Union and Sharp. Patria-Kaye holds a BA in Media and Communications from the University of the West Indies and an MSc in Management from the University of Edinburgh.

Craslyn Benjamin began small backyard farming with her grandfather and is now farming and producing on a wide scale production level. She seeks to model and invest in the development of the agricultural sector in Jamaica, particularly through her company, Benlar Foods Limited. Benlar's core function is focused on producing and selling high quality fresh fruits and vegetable products for the domestic and international markets. Craslyn has garnered over twelve years of experience in the shipping and allied industry and has over four years of experience in export marketing and international trade. Prior to Benlar Foods Limited, she worked at Grace Foods International as a Customer Relations Officer. Craslyn holds a diploma in International Shipping and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from the Caribbean Maritime Institute. She is an official Branson Centre Entrepreneur.

Tishauna Mullings is the owner of NexxStepp Personal Development Services and Inspirational Products, a company aimed at maximising their customer's potential by offering inspirational products and services. NexxStepp will offer the following services: tutoring for major school exams, reading classes, life purpose coaching, career consultancy, and personal and professional development seminars. She has been recognised for several awards, including the Governor General of Jamaica Vision of Love Video Competition and Achievement Award in 2015 and 2016. She was also nominated for the Prime Minister’s Youth Award in Youth Work in 2012. Tishauna works as a freelance motivational speaker and is now preparing to publish her book, “Ready, Set, Go - The Youngsters Manual For the Road to Success.”


Javette Nixon is the Founder, President, and CEO of Point Global Marketing Limited – a marketing and brand development firm that focuses on the marketing and brand design of growth companies. He is also the director of Vein Centres of Jamaica. Prior to forming POINT, he founded his first business at the age of 23, an e-commerce business exporting Jamaican products. He has also worked at Edgechem Jamaica Limited, and Capital & Credit Merchant Bank. In addition, he has done extensive community work through organisations such as St. Thomas Association of Youth Organisation (STAYO) and the Social & Economic Alliance for Development (SEAD), a policy-oriented Organisation that supports national developmental programs, and policy making. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science & Economics from the University of the West Indies and is a graduate of the Technology Innovation Centre Incubator program at the University of Technology as well as the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

Kadeem Pet-Grave is co-founder and CEO of Educatours JA Ltd, a Jamaican based educational tour company powered by gamification and technology. Educatours plans and executes 'gamified' field trips (tours) and team building exercises for schools and other groups. The tours incorporate the use of mobile apps and game elements in an effort to ensure fun, engaged, and experiential learning. The company began operations in January 2015 and to date, over 1000 students have experienced Educatours’ tours and exercises. Educatours not only sells experiential learning but also acts as a social enterprise working to empower and inspire young people via tours. Educatours is a member of Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI Jamaica), a program spearheaded by the Jamaica National Foundation. Kadeem graduated from the University of the West Indies in 2014 with a degree in Entrepreneurship. He is also a part-time high school entrepreneurship teacher.

Renee Stewart is committed to helping young women who are housed in state owned juvenile facilities through her initiative, A Home for Girls Foundation. Once they reach the age of 18, young women are eligible to leave the juvenile facilities, and the initiative seeks to empower these young ladies through grooming, mentorship, continuing education, career guidance, and job search assistance. Renee is a licensed hairstylist with a steady clientele. She is also a fashion designer and CEO of her own company - Haute Apparel Ltd.

Latoya West-Blackwood founded iPublish Consultancy and its imprint, iMagiNation Books, as part of her longstanding love affair with books and reading. iPublish is Jamaica’s first registered full-service publishing consultancy, and it offers a range of support services from its base in Kingston, Jamaica to clients worldwide. From editorial and design, to digital distribution and marketing, iPublish provides customised solutions to self-publishers, corporate clients, and educational institutions. iMagiNation was created as an outlet for works across various genres showcasing the best of Jamaica to the world via new stories, voices, and media. Latoya is a Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship (Caribbean) Official Entrepreneur and Chairman of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. She is passionate about volunteering and supports several community-based and non-profit initiatives promoting literacy and reading.


Miguel 'Steppa' Williams works as a social outreach specialist, adjunct lecturer, motivational speaker, creative writer and dub poet. He is the founder and a director of the Forward Step Foundation, a NGO catering to the needs of high risk youth and communities. Steppa serves as a programmer and life coach in several of Jamaica's adult and juvenile correctional centres. He is a behaviour modification trainer who works in areas of community safety and security, gang reduction, re-integration and rehabilitation. Steppa is particularly talented at applying creative