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PALS programme motivates youth to aim for success

Published:Thursday | January 29, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

It was an afternoon of life-skills training and fun for 40 students who participated in the Peace and Love in Society (PALS), USAID-funded Yes We Can programme at Denham Town High School in Kingston yesterday.

The evening, which saw students engaging in activities that were centred on setting goals, was a life-changing experience for 16-year-old Sanya Fuller.

"As a fifth-form student, this programme has truly helped me because very soon I will be heading out into the workforce and I learnt a lot about the importance of working in a team and setting goals," she told The Gleaner. "Mi neva used to talk to people, but being a participant in this programme, it built my confidence and motivated me to work hard and aim for success in everything I do," she continued.

Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Chief of Defence Staff Major General Antony Anderson, who was guest speaker at the event, said he was impressed with the level of enthusiasm displayed by the students.

"The students are really bright. They were really engaged and I really believe that once young people receive adequate support, they can become world changers," he said. "I think policies and legislation can go so far, but what will really count is what people do on the ground. It will take entities like PALS and other volunteers to initiate creative programmes and give of their time to change the life of at least one person and this (Yes We Can) is one of them," Anderson said.

He also encouraged students to make use of every opportunity.

"I have encountered situations where young people are tardy and when you ask them the reason, they tell you straight up that they couldn't wake up, among other excuses, and that is not acceptable. We have to find a way to teach our students the importance of making sacrifices," the JDF head said. "Nothing beats hard work and sacrifice. You can't go halfway and expect to be successful. You have to put your best foot forward."

BUILDING CONFIDENCE

Christopher Barnes, managing director of The Gleaner Company and chairman of PALS, encouraged the youth to have confidence in themselves.

"Some of these children encounter challenges that we could never imagine, but what resonated with me is that all of those problems went through the door as soon as they were focused on their activity and in the end, they were all successful," Barnes said. "I honestly think people need to be reminded of their value. They have to be reminded of the potential that they have inside. With the right support and encouragement, they can achieve success."

Noting that sessions such as yesterday's reach a relatively small number of individuals, given the thousands of children facing challenges, the PALS chairman invited corporate entities to support such programmes and increase the scale of those who benefit.

Janilee Abrikian, general manager of PALS, said the programme has been a success thus far.

"It was initially a four-month programme that we have managed to extend through our creativity because we are talking about serious behavioural challenges that cannot be changed in such a short time. The students have been responding very well and we are reaping the reward," she said.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com