Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
PORTMORE, St Catherine:MOTIVATED BY the joy he got from helping an older friend pass a mathematics examinations Raheem Wallace has embarked on a mission for change.
The native of Rosemerry Castle - popularly known as Newlands in Portmore, St Catherine, which up to 2010 was plagued by frequent outbreaks of violence - is seeking to rescue the youth on the corner and give them renewed hope.
"I want these young people who sit on the corner doing nothing constructive to believe that they can become the next prime minister, the next soldier, the next doctor, or the next lawyer," the optimistic 16-year-old told The Gleaner. "I want to motivate them to be positive and take charge of their lives in a meaningful way."
Wallace, the deputy head boy at Waterford High School, admits that it is a tough job but said he is not daunted by the challenge as he is undertaking his mission knowing God will see him through.
Already, several young people have joined forces with him in their quest to highlight the positives in the community, which has produced the likes of four-time-champion jockey Omar Walker and national footballer Fabian Taylor.
Peta-Gaye Wright, the club's second vice-president, obtained five passes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations including mathematics and English. The 18-year-old was very emotional, as she related how she lost her father in 2010 during a spate of violent activities.
"My father and I had a close father-daughter relationship, and his death messed me up," related Wright. "The club is a good thing to occupy the children's minds other than for them to grow up and take up the gun," said the aspiring member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
bridge the gap
Shinnetee Walters, 13-year-old Greater Portmore High School student, serves as executive assistant in the club which meets every Saturday at 7 p.m.
"Crime and violence affect us in every way, but the club makes a lot of sense because we want to try and get the young people together and make a change," she said. "We are trying to use this set of young people to bridge the gap."
The club's first vice-president, Tamoni Dreckett, also a student at Greater Portmore High School, recognises that if left without positive leadership, the youngsters in the community will remain hopeless.
"The club is about hope and change. I want to help to talk to them, point out the wrong from the right, and help to change the negatives to the positives," said 13-year-old Dreckett.
For Erica Porter, who has been living in Newlands for 34 years, said Wallace's move is an inspiration.
"I feel good about what Raheem is doing and what the young people are trying to do because sometimes them just idle themselves away.
"We want them to understand that life is more than just sitting on the corner and idle. It's about getting a skill, getting a good education, doing something good," Porter noted.
It is her mother who has given the youngsters permission to have their meetings on her property, while another member of the community assists with chairs. Notwithstanding, they are desperately in need of a proper venue to hold their meetings as well as host some of their long-term activities such as parenting seminars and skill-training projects.
For Wallace, who is integrally involved in church and school activities and places significant importance on volunteerism, the youth club cannot be effective without the support of the older members of the community.
"We want them to come and give a word of encouragement, share the experiences that they had with the younger ones, tell their stories so that we can learn from them," he stated.
Ronald Levy, president of Newlands citizens' association, has recognised the importance of the involvement of adults if the youth club is to succeed and is backing the youngsters.
"I will put out all my effort to help them and guide them because of lot of clubs have been formed and broken up.
"So it's really commendable that a young person like Raheem wants to make a difference in Newlands, and I will always support the club," Levy told The Gleaner.