Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
Despite the numerous challenges the Kingston Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) has been experiencing over the years, educators at the welfare movement say they are not daunted and are continuing to reap success.
Administrator at the YMCA, Sarah Newland-Martin, said the organisation has managed to continue its mission of rescuing at-risk boys through programmes such as the Youth Development Programme (formerly the Street Corner Boys Programme) and the Special Life Coping Skills Programme.
"We have been soldiering on and helping to rescue and give these young men a sense of pride and something to live for," Newland-Martin said. "Though we have lost some along the way, we can't give up."
One of the many successes of the YMCA is 19-year-old Jamiel Forrest, who up until age 15 was a troubled young man who was unable to read and on the verge of becoming another statistic.
But in four years, Jamiel said he has defied the odds to receive four credits in this year's Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.
"The reading was always giving me a problem. But the people at the YMCA helped me to read and that gave me a chance to go high school," Jamiel told The Sunday Gleaner.
After completing the Grade Nine Achievement Test at the YMCA, Jamiel earned a place at St Andrew College, where he managed to pass chemistry, physics, biology, and electrical and electronic technology.
He said he always had the desire to do well in school but struggled with reading, and that hampered his progress in the other subjects.
prove them wrong
Jamiel said he has always had a rough life and his driving force was to prove all the naysayers wrong.
"Ever since I was a child, everybody used to doubt me and tell me how dunce I am, and I just want to prove them wrong. My other thing is that I don't want to be normal, I don't want to be an average guy in life," he stressed.
Jamiel said it was for this reason that he made use of the two years he spent in the intensive literacy programme at the YMCA. He said he saw the opportunity that the teachers and volunteers at the YMCA were giving him as the springboard to his dreams.
Jamiel, who is currently on a Ministry of Education scholarship at Quality Academics, where he is doing three 'A' level subjects along with CSEC math and English, said he was not sure what field he wants to enter, but made it clear that "I will be great. I don't doubt that."
He added: "It's just for me to make use of the opportunities and work hard."
Newland-Martin said she was extremely proud of Jamiel and, like many of the other boys who pass through the YMCA, the organisation would be monitoring his progress.
For his part, Jamiel noted that his weakest area was still English, but he was putting in the work to ensure that he has the requisite skills to matriculate into a university of his choice.