Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
According to a recent poll conducted by the Ministry of Youth and Culture, many of Jamaica's young people believe they are unlikely to experience an improvement in their standard of living anytime soon.
In an effort to tackle the despondency shown by many young Jamaicans, the National Youth Service (NYS), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has partnered with the ministry for the aptly named campaign 'Reset Di Ting'.
Sharleen Clarke, regional field officer for the NYS in St Mary, told Rural Xpress that Reset Di Ting is the strategic response of the Ministry of Youth and Culture to their survey:
"The project aims to empower and change the mentality of Jamaica's young people through character and career development, volunteerism, and work experience for around six months."
Having worked with young people for the last 14 years, Clarke understands why many of them feel their situation is hopeless, but she insists that positive thinking is the only solution.
"Young peoples' prospects will only look bleak if they have no forward-thinking, and that is why we have programmes that help them to think outside of the box.
"I don't agree with either youths or adults who sit back and say, 'There is nothing to do'. Once you have a mind, a concept, are forward-thinking and able to see beyond your nose, there is always something for you to do," she said.
The NYS was established in 1973 and focuses on personal and career development, volunteerism, and work experience for 17 to 24-year-olds.
Clarke is passionate about working with young people and spent six years employed as a teacher before joining the organisation in 2008. She loves her job because the NYS targets the demographic she is most interested in.
"The NYS is a great organisation because of its focus and the age group that we engage," said Clarke. "It is a holistic development. So rather than just concentrating on academics, we focus on personal development, self-esteem, respect for authority, nationalism, and citizenship. Once an individual has passed through the NYS, they should be well-rounded."
Tyrel Douglas, 19, is a perfect case study for showcasing what the NYS has to offer. In February 2012, he was accepted to the Corps programme, which delivers skills training and a year-long job placement, and eventually gained full-time employment working for the Ministry of Education as a clerical assistant at Carron Hall High School.
He told Rural Xpress, "The NYS was a great experience from which I gained a lot of knowledge that will be useful in my field."
Enjoyed the experience
He added: "The Corps programme moulded into us the interpersonal and communication skills necessary for the working environment, and I very much enjoyed the experience because I learned a few secrets about how to survive in the working world.
"I would recommend other young people contact the NYS because they teach all you need to know if you are new to the working world."
Looking forward, Clarke believes that if Jamaica is to evolve into a more productive society, parents, teachers and education policymakers must change their methods.
She says: "We are losing our youths to all manner of evil. As adults, some of us tend to sit back and blame the youths, music, and media without understanding that we play an integral role. Who is behind all these things? Us, the adults.
"Before we start developing and implementing programmes, we must meet with people from the target groups and do research and needs analyses.
"We talk about urban and rural, but even within those classifications, there are still different lifestyles. Not all St Maryians do the same things the same way.
"If I had the power, I would change what we offer in schools and the way we go about developing programmes for youths. They need to be involved, and one size doesn't necessarily fit all."