Get ready to lead. This was Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe's appeal to students last Friday as the ministry's 40 Under 40 caravan rolled into Scarborough Secondary School, Tobago.
The initiative, launched on May 1, allows Form Four students from throughout TT to engage with young people who have distinguished themselves in various areas, including sport, entertainment, media, the arts and academia.
Friday's caravan featured seven influencers: WhyFarm founder Alpha Sennon; clinical psychologist Dr Alina Williams; media personality Hans Des Vignes; wedding planner Asha Mars-Lewis; Waterholics founder Alex Nedd; fashion designer Shari Cumberbatch; and marriage counsellor Dr Crystal Benjamin.
Cudjoe, who is also the Tobago West MP, told the students they are the future leaders of the island
"Set up yourself. Get in your section and get ready to lead," she urged.
"Channel your direction. Channel your energies in the right direction towards leading Tobago. If you don't lead it, somebody else will come and lead it for you and then you will vexed with how they leading.
"This Tobago is your Tobago. So, what you want to see in your community and in your Tobago, you are responsible for."
Cudjoe said when she attended Scarborough Secondary, years ago, nobody could have predicted she would become the Tobago West MP.
"But, here I am today, the representative for the people of Tobago West, a past student of Scarborough Secondary."
Cudjoe told the students the anxieties they face about venturing into new areas could be alleviated through the conversations they have with the influencers.
"These kinds of engagements help you along the way in building your confidence, in charting your life and planning your career."
Cudjoe said young people are too often cast in a negative light.
"You see school fights being circulated. You see bad behaviour being circulated. When you read the news, it is always about young people doing something negative involving crime, and hardly do we ever highlight the young people who are excelling, the good news and the good works of young people."
Cudjoe said since being reassigned to the sport ministry she has had the opportunity to interact with some outstanding young people "and I feel like the world needs to know."
She said the influencers who have agreed to give of their time voluntarily to the 40 Under 40 initiative are examples of young people doing excellent work in their respective fields.
"Any young person you want to give you some direction, we have it."
Cudjoe said in order to be a part of the 40 Under 40 school caravan, the influencers must have a strong following on social media and in real life.
Vice principal Ann-Marie Davis, in her remarks, said the initiative was a welcome reprieve.
"In a world which seems to have gone completely whack, where youth and negativity seems to placed in the same sentence, it is indeed heartening to observe the stance the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has taken against violence and criminality in this country," she said.
"The ongoing violence in our land has to stop and if this initiative in this ministry is to be used as a catalyst to spread positivity, peace love, brotherhood and also sisterhood among the youth of TT, then so be it."
Davis told Cudjoe and 40 Under 40 project co-ordinator Michelle Agard they must continue to believe in the goodness and purity of youth.
"May your wonderful initiative be a spark that will turn into a flame to set ablaze the darkened corners of our country with everything that is good, everything that is pure, everything that is wholesome," she said.