Speyside High student Adriel Wheeler, 16, is ready to be Tobago’s first shadow chief secretary, to help other youths step out from the shadows and let their voices be heard. The form five student has already begun preparing his list of proposals to present to Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.
Wheeler's appointment was announced by Augustine at the launch of the Youth Transcending Boundaries organisation (YTB), in Speyside, last Sunday. Augustine, who is also representative for the area, said every month a young person will be selected to shadow the Chief Secretary for a day.
Wheeler, who lives in Speyside and is the youth assemblyman for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Formi/Speyside, will be the first in line, to be picked up by the Chief Secretary's official vehicle, spend a day in his office, and attend meetings.
When asked about the history-making initiative, Wheeler said, “I am humbled. For me it is an honour to work with any person, as I believe there is a teaching moment in every experience.
“Having the opportunity to shadow the Chief Secretary is not only a pleasure, but an opportunity that will allow me to voice my concerns, and the concerns of other young people on the island, as I am about youth representation and advocacy.”
It will not be solely a VIP experience for Wheeler, as the shadow chief secretary is expected to come to the office with a brief, outlining the challenges faced at their schools and communities, along with solution and ideas for the Tobago space.
Wheeler said two of his concerns are the internet and washroom at his school.
He said, “The internet available on the plant at Speyside Secondary School is atrocious, as a result I will propose that a technician be made available to rectify this issue.
“Our washrooms at the school are in a deplorable state. And especially during this covid19 period, a well-equipped bathroom, with soap dispensers and hand dryers should be mandatory.”
Wheeler said he founded YTB to help young people have a say.
“I felt the Speyside community lacked a good youth support system – a place where youths could go and articulate their issues and be heard. As a young person, I can relate to sharing my views and having them dismissed. At 14 years, that was the problem I encountered, no one took me seriously, and I had actually given up on forming the group.”
The group will be open and dedicated towards the holistic development of young people, between the ages of ten to 35 years, within Speyside and environs.
The mission of YTB “is to nurture and harness pioneers in youth development, empower young people to become outstanding leaders and effect positive changes in their lives and communities.”
Among the goals for the group, which consists of eight executive and five board members, "are to have a well-operating steel orchestra by 2026, improve the literacy levels in the community and partner with renown tradesmen in Tobago, to teach youths the imperative skills.”
Wheeler said his first attempt to start the group did not materialise, but he was able to persevere by leaning on the skills acquired from being a part of other youth groups, as well as inspiration from Augustine and his cousin Christel Kirk.
“Mr. Farley Augustine, whom I have known for some time now, has also continuously urged me to chase after my dreams. Funny enough, I am still processing the fact that he is now chief secretary.
“I am hopeful that he will develop Speyside and other rural areas in Tobago. And he is always one to push for youth development. And I am certain that he will ensure that opportunities are provided for the youths.”
Wheeler said his passion for advocacy was nurtured by his mother and aunt.
“I credit my resilience to my mother, who taught me the philosophy that hard work pays off, and my aunt Verna Davidson, who has taught me that leadership is not about being a director, but having the ability to listen to others.”
Although inspired by Augustine, Wheeler has no ambition of a political career.
“Honestly, I have never seen myself as a politician, I am one who moves by the counsel of the Almighty. While I have a long list of interests. I am not certain which career I will choose, when the time comes.”
Wheeler advised other young people, “It does not matter how you start off in life, what matters is how you end.
“Walk in your purpose and remain grounded. Know that if God brought you to it, he will take you through it, but most importantly remain humble.”