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Four Paths youth now 'Free to Dream'

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Cecelia Campbell-Livingston, Gleaner Writer

MAY PEN, Clarendon:THIRTY YOUTHS from the Four Paths community in Clarendon 'graduated' last Thursday from a 10-week interactive project dubbed 'Free to Dream' at Versalles Hotel in May Pen.

An initiative of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), the programme was funded by the European Union's Poverty Reduction Programme.

The programme, which began in September, attracted unemployed and out-of-school persons between the ages of 17 and 24.

The workshop took place at the Four Paths United Church and saw the participants learning literacy, numeracy and entrepreneurial and life skills.

At the closing ceremony, guest speaker Scarlett Gillings, managing director of the JSIF, urged participants to "put your journey into perspective. You will face many challenges in life, but it's how you respond to them that will make or break you".

She used Apple founder Steve Jobs as an example of resilience. Gillings said he did not like school as a boy, but became a brilliant adult, because of good advice.

"Many great people had a poor start, but at some point somewhere in their lives, someone came along, or a programme such as this," she said, commending them on taking the first step in being a part of the programme and seeing it through to completion.

"This is just a start, improve on these skills [and] it will improve your situation," Gillings said.

'talented and bright'

Heather Christian workshop administrator told The Gleaner that the plan was to show that "beneath the rough exterior of the at-risk youths, they were "talented and bright".

"We identified Four Paths to be at risk. There are a lot of disengaged youths and we wanted to catch them before - and boy did we ever!" Christian said in satisfaction.

Weeks later, watching the end result, she said it was no easy task taking them on the journey. "We had challenges; one of the biggest was the dress code - too many revealing outfits. Within days though, we started to see a change," Christian said, adding that even when some of the students caught chik-V, not even that could keep them away from classes.

Programme Director Damion Young in giving an overview on the project said he was satisfied with the end results. The programme started out with 40 participants, with 30 staying the course.

rural@gleanerjm.com