St Thomas youth 'eXpress' themselves
Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer
The National Youth Service (NYS) recently concluded the St Thomas leg of its islandwide youth reasoning sessions, with more than 200 St Thomas youth participating in discussions aimed at driving youth and community development in the parish.
Dubbed eXpress Yourself, Exploring Youth Views, the forums were born out of rising concerns that youth in St Thomas and elsewhere on the island, did not have a means through which their concerns could be aired and addressed.
The St Thomas office of the NYS partnered with the Social Development Commission to host two sessions. The first was held at the St Thomas Technical High School in eastern St Thomas and the other at the Coke Methodist Church in Morant Bay.
The forums were a major success as youth from comm-unities as far-reaching as Ness Castle in eastern St Thomas turned out to discuss matters ranging from home life to the general perception of youth in today's society. Many youth were particularly concerned about the bleak financial climate and the lack of unemployment not only among themselves, but also among their parents and guardians.
Regional field officer Donnalee Duffus-Clayton told Rural Xpress that she was pleased with the turnout for the parish and that some of the concerns raised in the discussions were surprising.
Lack of affection from parents
"Some young persons told us that they were hurt and disappointed by the lack of affection from their parents in their teenage years. They had become used to the affection when they were children, but suddenly, as teenagers, they were being neglected. You could see that it really hurt and confused them," Clayton said.
Another concern of some of the youth was the lack of government programmes to guarantee jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for those who chose to equip themselves with the necessary skills and qualifications. They lamented that there were many graduates from high schools and trade schools but few jobs and opportunities to justify the time and immense expense of additional training.
Clayton stressed the importance of giving youth a voice in the development of programmes implemented to benefit them as the needs of young people could only be addressed once those needs were assessed and understood.
Though the NYS already has a summer work-experience programme, it is hoped that these forums can be used in the development and implementation of a long-term experience programme - similar to the Graduate Work Experience Programme recently launched to aid university graduates in getting much-needed experience and character development in the world of work - for those who have left high school.