STIRRING appeal was made for the nation’s youths to “get involved in politics” at the Junior Achievement's (JA) Annual Student (Male) Conference at the Central Bank auditorium. The call was made by youth empowerment advocate Nikoli Edwards, vice chair, policy, advocacy and projects, Commonwealth Youth Council. Edwards was a member of a distinguished panel which explored the topic Maximising Manhood, Exploring Opportunity for Growth and Empowerment.
“As young people, it is our duty to empower our peers. Whatever I do, I do it to the best of my ability and it has opened up doors for me. We should not have to depend on others to do what we can do for ourselves. Take your rightful seat to determine the future direction of TT. Get involved in politics. Important decisions are made through politics. Join a political party because politics is present in your everyday life; I am not telling you which party to join but get involved in politics,” Edwards urged his audience. Edwards has served as a senator in the Upper House of Parliament.
The JA student conference held in collaboration with RBC Royal Bank, drew a packed audience of male secondary school students to the auditorium on November. There were soul-searching, and often humorous, personal life stories from the presenters.
Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe, who brought greetings on behalf of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, earned applause as she offered touching recollections of her childhood days in Tobago when “girls were treated differently from boys”. She gave personal glimpses into her early family life, recounting the anxieties caused by a sibling who, eventually, became a successful and productive adult.
“Our young men tend to fare worse than our females in education. This is testament that there is much more than needs to be done. There is need to harness their full potential and improve their image and self-esteem. We see the red flags, and sometimes we ignore those red flags. We cannot abandon them. We must give them a second chance. Interventions like this inspirational conference will go a long way in helping our young men who are looking forward to a bright future. We must commend Junior Achievement and RBC Royal Bank for dedicating their time, talent and resources in our young men, for giving them this opportunity to realise their full potential,” said Cudjoe.
The panellists, who all gave graphic accounts of their travails and tribulations as youths, were Edwards; life coach Anderson Williams; Dr Ian Baptiste, professor, St George’s University, Grenada; and pastor Clive Dottin, field secretary, public affairs and religious liberty, Caribbean Union Conference. Moderator was Errol Fabien, CEO, Gayelle the Caribbean Television.
Darryl White, chief executive officer, RBC Royal Bank (Caribbean) called on the young male adults to take responsibility for their destiny. He cited three values which should shape their lives: Character, Conscience and Conviction.
“Manhood is a journey; it is a purpose. Your character is of utmost importance on this journey. It defines who you are, what you stand for, what people make of you. You must follow your conscience. Everyone knows what is right or wrong. When your conscience whispers to you, you should listen. When it shouts at you, don’t ignore it. Conviction is the ability to believe in things you care about and are important to you. You will not find a successful person who did not believe steadfastly in something,” White declared.
Williams painted a heart-wrenching picture of his early childhood days when he slept, from the age of seven, at nights on the “cold, concrete floor” of Hillview College with no one knowing. He got a job at a chicken pluck shop until he was 18. “Sometimes life provides you with some of the worst choices; you have no control of the environment in which you live. But you have responsibility for the choices you make. You can change and transform the circumstances of your life but you have to change the internal landscape of your life before you can transform yourself,” Williams said.
Baptiste told the students that they should take calculated risks and look beyond the obvious. “As a youth, I learned to value my own ideas and to believe in myself. It is better to be a problem solver than a complainer. Early in life I learned not to complain but to propose. Poverty is not a lack of money. It is an attitude of helplessness. To be successful, you have to take calculated risks. Nothing substantial is achieved without substantial risks,” Baptiste propounded.
In his inimitable, rollicking style which drew rounds of resounding applause from his audience, Dottin called on the students to “have faith in God and commitment to excellence”. He urged them to understand their mission in life and not to let peer pressure affect them adversely.