Mon | Jun 14, 2021

‘A remarkable change’

11-y-o is first ambassador for new development programme

Published:Tuesday | May 4, 2021 | 12:22 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Alannah Morris riding a bicycle.
Alannah Morris riding a bicycle.
Eleven-year-old Alannah Morris and her mom, Abigail Morris.
Eleven-year-old Alannah Morris and her mom, Abigail Morris.
Anisa Wilson Smith, founder and CEO, Life Skills Publishing.
Anisa Wilson Smith, founder and CEO, Life Skills Publishing.
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After showing remarkable improvement following her participation in a new student development programme, 11-year-old Alannah Morris of Drax Hall, St Ann, has been appointed the first life skills ambassador for the company behind the programme.

Anisa Wilson Smith, founder and CEO of Life Skills Publishing, said students are enrolled in the Life Skills Academy division to access the non-academic personal development programme, which has attracted students from all parishes across Jamaica as well as New York and Atlanta and in the United States.

Alannah, the eldest of three children for attorney-at-law Keron Morris and educator Abigail Morris, has always been on the reserved side, her mother explained.

Her participation in school activities was always average and she was not speaking up as much as she should.

“She, being an older sibling, she was an only child for the first five years of her life. There would have been that little streak of jealousy that would have crept in [after siblings were born]. She would have felt somewhat isolated with more attention being given to them, and in a sense, lost her voice,” explained dad Keron.

Alannah was enrolled in the pilot of the online programme developed by Wilson Smith in January.

“Each morning, the students come to me for motivation classes before they go to school. It’s just for 10 minutes each morning. They get different motivational speakers; they have to repeat their mantra, we call it ‘The Greatest’ mantra,” Wilson Smith explained. The purpose is to build the children’s confidence and to enhance their self-esteem and just to give them the assurance that they can do well in school.”

Wilson Smith said Alannah came to her as a shy, withdrawn, low-energy child with an underwhelming attitude.

“And only after a few months, drastic changes,” she pointed out. “And the changes came about by teaching them social skills and emotional skills, how to manage your emotions and how to develop the social skills, like communication skills, learning about empathy, learning about appreciative differences in each other, and value in each other. We did a lot on character development, so for example, they learn about respect, they learn about responsibility, and honesty.”

After just three months, Alannah was on a different level.

“It’s a remarkable change. I’m happy,” a pleased mom, Abigail, said. “Yes, there is still more work to be done. I’m not saying everything is over and everything is perfect, but one of the key elements we were trying to get her to unearth is that she is the eldest and she has to step out and step in front. She will now lead her siblings into doing what they’re to do, or talk up, which is what we need children to be like, especially in these modern times.

“Now, she is more outspoken. She speaks her feelings. For us, I am happy to see the result of my investment,” she added.

Keron is also pleased.

“She is a lot more confident, more self-assured and she’s bolder, more talkative and engaging,” he explained.

A CHANGED STUDENT

Mom said the programme has impacted her schoolwork in a positive way, too.

“I think now she is realising that her education is more individualised, she will now have to do more of the work. This third term, she is making more effort to get in there and do the work on her own. Before, I would have to be the one behind her, [saying,] ‘Come on, you have to get this done.’ But she’s trying now. She will start it and whenever she has a difficulty, she will come. Her dependency [on me] is slowly but surely reversing. That’s what I am happy about.”

Wilson Smith said based on the change seen in Alannah, she decided to make her an ambassador of the programme.

“[Abigail] reported that the child wasn’t just learning, but she was applying them in her everyday life, and her confidence has been boosted so much that I had to appoint her my first life skills ambassador.

“As a life skills ambassador for North East St Ann, she will be responsible for giving back, sharing her knowledge with people, for example, in her church, service clubs, and school. I will create those opportunities so she can empower other children. It’s a wonderful programme of building children’s self-development.

“When you motivate children, there is nothing that they can’t do. There’s nothing they can’t achieve, and most importantly, for me, is that they are happy.”

Alannah is happy, too.

“It makes me feel good; more confident and motivated,” she told The Gleaner about the programme’s impact on her.

She believes that it will also help when the time comes to choose a career, with her mind already on several options, including business and law.

About her role as ambassador, she simply said: “I am the first ambassador of Life Skills Publishing. I am happy to volunteer to motivate other children.”

Up to the start of the pandemic, Alannah was enrolled at the United Learning Centre, but was registered at the St Ann’s Bay Primary for the academic year that began in September 2020. She is one of thousands of Jamaican children who are forced by the pandemic to access learning online.

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