Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Helping Jamaican youth to dream

Published:Friday | August 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dr Saran Stewart (second left) programme director Dream Jamaica/lecturer UWI, and David Kennedy (left) programme director Dream Jamaica, address a group of students during an interview at the University of the West Indies School of Education in July. - Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer

Despite the dark clouds surrounding the future of many Jamaican youth, Dream Jamaica, a non-profit organisation formed in 2008, is helping to shine some light by inspiring and empowering students to positively impact their communities.

According to Dr Saran Stewart, programme director, their mission is to provide meaningful mentoring relationships along with educational and professional opportunities that will inspire and empower young people to pursue their dreams, accomplish their goals, and positively impact their communities.

"The Dream Jamaica team is made up of a diverse group of professionals who are dedicated to providing Jamaican youth with unique opportunities. We decided to mentor students to help them identify their talents and encourage their personal and professional growth, while emphasising the importance of giving back to the community through service learning projects," Stewart said.

Dream Jamaica's summer programme is key to the organisation's goal of setting a foundation for academic excellence and a path towards choice careers for Jamaican youth.

"The curriculum is designed for high-school students and aims to inspire them to set personal, educational, and career goals, while equipping them with tools for success. Our offerings expose participants to an array of academic and professional opportunities, with a focus on improving study skills and sharpening the soft skills needed to be effective citizens," Stewart said.

Each Dream Jamaica participant who successfully completes the summer programme leaves having explored their passion, developed a portfolio of high-school successes, and embarked on a path towards achieving their goals in life.

"We envision a Jamaica where students are inspired and empowered to succeed. They are not limited to just school material, but critical thinking and discovering themselves by finding out who they are," Stewart said. Mentoring is the fundamental component of Dream Jamaica as these relationships facilitate the students' success in attaining their goals.

"Many of the participants are from underserved communities. We want them to know there are no barriers to learning; all they have to do is bring themselves into the process. During the three weeks, we provide everything for them, including full transportation, food, and a stipend," Stewart said.

Students also work in groups to identify issues in their communities, and professionals help them to create solutions. The students then work throughout the year to implement the solutions, thereby helping to improve Jamaica.

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