Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
An inspirational story from struggling inner-city youth to pastor and principal
Rising from abject poverty in the inner-city community of Tawes Pen, St Catherine, to the pastor of his own church, and now principal of Homestead Primary School, Everton Thomas was destined to lead a life dedicated to steering youth from a life of seeming hopelessness, setting them on a life-changing path.
Overflowing with zeal, passion and determination, he has set out to fulfil that mission.
Thomas, who pastors the Christ Light Assembly in Gordon Pen, St Catherine, has lived the life and confronted the demons that so many inner-city youth are facing.
Losing his mother when he was only nine years old, he and his two younger brothers were left to fend for themselves. Suffering the agonising pangs of hunger so many many nights, Thomas said sometimes he and his siblings were so hungry, they felt they were going to die. They depended on the mercies of an aunt who sold soup in the town, who would feed them with the leftover she had.
At age 14, while at Spanish Town Secondary School, he had an encounter with someone special who would lead him to fulfil his destiny.
"She was a godsend who changed my life. She made me believe that anything was possible, that I could do anything I set my mind to. I now understood that where I came from and what I went through did not determine my future," he shared with The Gleaner.
"That was the most important lesson I learnt in my life: Christ plus education equalled success."
The inspiration of that Christian woman heavily influenced his decision to pursue the path of pastorship. He also felt it was a calling on his life.
Now trained and qualified in the professions of teaching and theology, Thomas has combined the two towards his objective of saving at-risk youth.
"I feel I am perfectly positioned to be that change agent to point the youth in the right direction. My life experience in the inner city as a poor youth, rising from that to now being both a pastor and a principal, I am an example that there is hope. There is something better out there and they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. All they need is that someone to believe in them and steer them on that right path and I am eager to pass on those values," he stated.
Through the work he has been doing as an educator for more than 20 years, and a pastor for the past two years, Thomas said he is heartened to see the positive impact he is having, witnessing to youth who once thought their lives were lost to now being lit up with hopeful possibilities.
"I am truly humbled by the fact that God has given me the opportunity to be a change agent and I will continue to do His will until I leave this Earth," said the married father of three.
The 40-year-old embarked on his first principal assignment this month at Homestead. He now leads a staff of nine teachers and three volunteers to work with the student population of 227 to move the school from a level two to a level five.
He has set out a strategised, comprehensive plan of action, which includes partnering with other schools in the community, working closely with parents and residents of the community, and instituting a number of initiatives at the school - all with the aim of elevating the level of education in the wider community.
He intends to achieve his objectives by moving out from within the walls of both the church and the school and take his mission into the creases and corners of the communities.
"With God's help, all things are possible, so I am just craving the support of the community and Jamaica, that we may succeed in having a positive impact on Homestead," he closed.