Mon | Jul 16, 2018

GK interns exploring their Jamaican roots

Published:Friday | July 21, 2017 | 12:12 AMKeisha Hill
Menelik Graham
Tianna Thomas
Matthew Robinson
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With his rich Jamaican accent, it is hard to believe that Menelik Graham, whose parents are Jamaican, has only visited the island a few times in his 19 years. The second-year economics major currently attending Princeton University in the United States, has fit in nicely, along with his colleagues who are being hosted by GraceKennedy Limited for a month-long professional and cultural internship.

"I want to learn more about my Jamaican heritage. Most of what I know about Jamaica came from my parents. I also want the professional experience and to see how business is conducted in Jamaica," Graham said.

Tianna Thomas of Brock University in Canada left Jamaica when she was four years old and is happy to reconnect with her Jamaican roots. "I love the experience so far, especially visiting the historical sites. We visited Port Royal and have a few more places to go. I will definitely have a lot of memories to take back with me," Thomas said.

The GraceKennedy Jamaican Birthright Programme is designed to reconnect second and third generation Jamaicans to their heritage. The programme is a cultural and professional internship geared at highlighting all aspects of Jamaican life while furthering the career goals of the interns.

These interns work at a GraceKennedy subsidiary linked to their field of study, therefore granting them hands-on experience in a wide range of industries.

During their time in Jamaica, GraceKennedy provides airfare, housing, transportation and stipend for the interns. They will also be taken on a variety of weekend programmes, which will expose them to the Jamaican heritage by immersing them in historic sites, natural and human resources.

Matthew Robinson of Georgetown University in the United States and Cleveland Douglas of the United Kingdom-based Imperial College are the other GraceKennedy Birthright Interns. Robinson's parents are also Jamaicans and he is interested in learning about the historical political landscape of Jamaica.

The lone Englishman, Douglas, who is in his third year studying chemical engineering said he was happy for the opportunity to work in an area that is relevant to his field of study. He will work with Diary Industries on a project.

The four students were selected from a field of 48 applicants. According to executive director of the GraceKennedy Foundation and coordinator of the programme, Caroline Mahfood, based on the cadre of applicants it was a hard task short-listing the interns.

"GraceKennedy is committed to anchoring the roots of these students, many of whom have never been to Jamaica before. Coming in contact with the dynamics of their parents or grandparents' culture first hand helps to foster strong connection between Jamaica and the diaspora, and empowers these young people to think differently about themselves, their heritage and their contribution to the world," Mahfood said.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com