‘I have been transformed’
Participants hail turnaround after social, academic intervention project at Charlie Smith High
For Richard Williams, a grade nine student at Charlie Smith High School, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Sterling Asset Management’s Agents for Transformation Project has renewed his mindset and caused him to improve in his academics and social life.
Williams was among the more than 20 students graduating during the programme’s closing ceremony on Thursday at the Courtyard by Marriott in New Kingston.
“I can happily say that being a part of this initiative has changed my life in more ways than one,” he said.
Williams went on to detail how difficult it was for him, previous to being a participant in the programme, to navigate his personal life struggles and to understand the concepts in mathematics and English language classes.
“With the additional mathematics sessions, I am now a better problem-solver and equations are now my best friend,” he added.
He credited the programme, which began in September 2022, for teaching him positive ways to manage his emotions and how to become a better communicator.
Students were awarded in the categories of improved conflict resolution/attitude towards violence; improved attitude to school; outstanding achievement in English language; outstanding achievement in mathematics; consistently displaying positive behaviour; improved communication and confidence, and other areas.
The intervention was targeted at-risk youth within the institution, to improve their capacity of a healthy social interaction and to cause them to be less susceptible to crime and violence in Trench Town and the wider Jamaica.
The programme offered life skills training, after-school academic support, case management, and counselling. Training was also provided for the participants’ parents to assist in the reduction of violence in the home.
“I have [been] transformed,” parent participant Nicholas Miller declared in his testimony at the graduation.
Miller, who was awarded for utilising positive parenting principles and improved parent involvement, called for similar programmes to be implemented across all institutions islandwide, noting that it was highly beneficial.
JAVADE A SUPERSTAR
Miller said he was proud of his 15-year-old son, Javade, who won six awards, as he motioned to him to stand in recognition.
“He is one of the superstars of the programme. The programme helped me and it helped him a lot ... . It help me in a my life and it a help me with my work, too. I appreciate this programme,” he added.
Christopher Wright, principal of Charlie Smith High School, said that he has witnessed the transformation in the students, who, prior to the programme, “were very much out of line”. He said that he was “sincerely grateful” for its intervention.
Richard Troupe, acting director of safety and security in schools in the education ministry, stated that he and other members of society were both “troubled” and “traumatised” by the violence exhibited in schools. He added that crime and violence had “robbed the progress of our nation dearly”.
“As parents, when we send our children to school, sometimes we don’t know if they will come back home because of the [high] incidence of violence in schools, but also, more importantly, because of the potential risk of them being harmed because of ... [volatile areas where some] schools are located ... or [on] the journey to school,” he said.
“That’s why this programme is so important,” Troupe added.
Making reference to Charlie Smith High’s sports legacy, specifically in football, having won three Manning Cup titles, Troupe said that this represented the greatness of the students and their capabilities to achieve success.
He said that, irrespective of the students’ economic background, they had the potential to achieve greatness.
He encouraged Sterling Asset Management to continue its partnership in preventing violent and criminal behaviours in students and to “unlock the potential of our nation’s boys and girls”.
“If we can establish and maintain peace in our communities, if we can create our communities and our schools to become non-violent spaces, think of the possibilities,” Troupe said.
St Andrew Southern Member of Parliament Mark Golding encouraged the students to continue utilising the lessons learnt from the programme throughout their lives.