Red Cross transforms 16 more young lives
Former banker and now ecclesiastical leader Leroye Blake recently gave students of the Jamaica Red Cross (JRC) School of Transformation the tools to move on to the next phase of their lives.
Blake, the resource development manager at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told youngsters at a graduation ceremony in Central Village, St Catherine, how he overcame a life of poverty and hardship as a child to become a success in his professional and spiritual life.
"I was where you are," he told his attentive audience.
"I've been around for half a century. I know what it's like to walk around without brief. I know what it's like to go without shoes. I had no books in sixth form," he told the eight girls and eight boys, before pointing out some of the targets he had set himself to achieve his dreams.
Four pillars of life
Calling them the four pillars of life, Blake urged the group to take honesty, integrity, problem-solving and perseverance with them as they move into the world of work or on to further education.
"Honesty is about being true to yourself and to those around you. Your word is your bond. What you sow is what you're going to reap," he said, cautioning them about resorting to such things as scamming in their quest for happiness.
"Never give up," he urged, telling them of the setbacks he suffered after a poor decision to leave his job wiped out his savings years ago.
He encouraged the group to seek out resources that would assist in their personal development, such as joining a library or community groups like the Red Cross and Kiwanis.
"Have a mission statement," Blake went on. "Think about what you want people to say about you at [age] 80."
Turning to the boys, he told them to shun the life that would see them becoming baby-fathers and, instead, get married before they begin having children.
Concluding, he explained the value of teamwork and urged the youngsters to maintain humility in their everyday affairs to allow themselves to learn from others.
The Red Cross School of Transformation has been serving Central Village and its environs as well as May Pen, Clarendon, since 1998. The school caters to approximately 88 students, ages 12-16, who have either dropped out of the formal school system or have never entered it.
Students are provided with a skills-based education which includes barbering and cosmetology and a strong sports-based curriculum.
Reflecting on his three years at the institution, 15 year-old Jonathan Grant High School-hopeful Kamoy Bogle said he learnt the value of teamwork. "The best thing mi learn is teamwork. If yuh have a team weh a push yuh forward, yuh good. If yuh have a team weh people a degrade yuh, a nuh one good team," the outspoken youngster reasoned.
One of three valedictorians, Bogle, who does not know his father, said he loves maths although "mi nuh master it". Similarly, he enjoyed the classes "because dem small, so it easier for me [to learn]".
The day's theme, which saw Kimone Irving and Albert Fagan cop several awards from among their peers for outstanding performances in academics and sports, was 'Hold Fast to Your Dreams'.
Four of the current graduates have already been enrolled into programmes at the HEART Trust-NTA in keeping with the Red Cross mandate to transform the lives of the youngsters. Another former student went on to become deputy head boy at Jose Marti Technical High School after being reintegrated into the formal school system.