GraceKennedy Interns Connect With Their Roots
"I wasn't just surprised. I was flabbergasted!" said Natasha Allen, one of four interns currently being hosted by the GraceKennedy Group under the auspices of the GraceKennedy Jamaican Birthright Programme.
The 23-year-old from Toronto, Canada, is a past student at the University of Toronto who graduated in June 2016 with an bachelor's degree (honours) in women's and gender studies, sociology and public law.
"It is an honour to be a recipient of the GraceKennedy Jamaican Birthright Programme. I applied because I recognise the treasure that is embedded within the programme in education, integration and exposure to culture. As a woman of Jamaican descent, this is valuable to me; it will give me the opportunity to learn more about my culture and heritage," Allen said when the group visited The Gleaner recently.
The GraceKennedy Jamaican Birthright Programme is a cultural and professional internship which highlights all aspects of Jamaican life while furthering the career goals of the selected candidates. Successful candidates receive a thorough Jamaican experience.
The interns will work in a GraceKennedy subsidiary linked to their field of study, access hands-on experience in a wide range of industries that will benefit them in a variety of ways, including practical experience and mentorships.
Casey Daley, the lone male among the group and youngest team member, is a second-year junior at Florida State University pursuing a double major in finance and economics. He applied because he wanted to get the chance to be in his father's country of birth.
"I have never visited Jamaica and I wanted to make it a reality. My mom is from Panama and I was able to study my whole first year there and, upon returning to the States, I found this programme that would allow me to visit Jamaica," Daley said.
GraceKennedy provided airfare, housing, transportation and stipend for the interns. During their five-week stay, they will also participate in a variety of weekend programmes that will expose them to Jamaica's heritage, natural and human resources.
Karis Edwards from East London recently graduated with a first-class honours degree in english literature from Brunel University. She applied because she felt it was an amazing opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.
This is Edwards' first trip to Jamaica, despite both sides of her family originating here. "I was in disbelief when I got the call that my application was successful. It sunk in when I received the confirmation email. I have heard stories from my family members, but being here, I feel a stronger sense of the culture and a renewal of what makes me feel Jamaican," she said.
Meanwhile, Kimberly Ann Stephenso, who is currently pursuing a master's degree in global affairs with a concentration on the private sector at New York University, hopes to feel connected with her Jamaican roots while here. Stephenson's dad is Jamaican and her mother is Chinese.
"I was in search of a programme that would allow me to progress professionally. GraceKennedy's Birthright Programme is designed to meet both objectives. It will place me in an internship tailored towards my specific academic interest in economic development amongst developing and emerging markets. It will also allow me to immerse myself in the Jamaican community," Stephenson said.
The interns were chosen from a list of 58 applicants. Additional sponsors for the programme also include Jakes Hotel, FLOW Jamaica, Jamaica Tourist Board, Grace Foods, Hi-Lo Food Stores, Appleton Estate Tours, Dolphin Cove Ltd, Chukka Tours, Mystic Mountain, the Bob Marley Museum, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, Supreme Ventures Limited, Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Rose Hall Great House and Green Grotto Caves.