AS A boy, Luke James-Trim always seemed wise beyond his years.
In Mt St George, Tobago, where he was raised, Trim joked he was often regarded as an old soul.
“I thank my grandparents Jason and Amontine James and my mother, Lue-Ann, for that. They encouraged me to use my voice at a very young age and never be afraid, to be fearless in the pursuit of what I want for myself and for others.
“Most times, they weren’t in agreement with my outspokenness, but they never tried to mould me into something I was not, or tried to silence my voice and I thank them for that,” said James-Trim, 22, who was appointed Caricom youth ambassador, along with Samantha Rampersad, on September 8.
James-Trim said while the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," may be a cliché, it truly reflects his upbringing in the community.
“I always appreciated the level of care I experienced from my village. From birth, various villagers saw an anointing in me that I took a while to see in myself, and from their interest, investment in creating a healthy and supportive foundation for me, I can boast that I am the young person I am today because that village decided to raise me.”
So when the opportunity to become a Caricom youth ambassador arose, James-Trim figured it would be an avenue through which he could make a positive contribution to the development of Tobago’s young people and the island by extension.
James-Trim, who attended Bishop’s High School and Signal Hill Secondary, is doing a law degree at UWI, St Augustine. He submitted an online application with information about his career, accomplishments, projects he was involved in at the time and was later interviewed by a panel.
James-Trim said the interview was intense.
“While questions about Caricom were asked, the interview really tested your knowledge about what’s going on in the youth space locally, regionally and internationally. It challenged your ability to identify the real problems in the youth space, not the generic ones, and most importantly the solutions to these problems.”
James-Trim and Rampersad subsequently received their letters of appointment as Caricom youth ambassadors from the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service. They are expected to serve for about three years.
James-Trim says a Caricom youth ambassador is regarded as one of the highest positions a young individual can attain.
He said they are given the opportunity to devise policies for the sustainable development of the Caribbean region by bringing to the attention of the decision-makers issues affecting the youth of the region, such as HIV/Aids, unemployment, violence, mental health and climate change.
James-Trim believes in this role he can maximise the power of community.
“It takes a group effort to develop and influence responsible young people. As Caricom youth ambassador I would use my skills to encourage young people to be more involved as citizens in their communities.
“Collaborating with youth groups, police youth clubs and other stakeholders would create an avenue where we can influence and guide young people to be agents of social change.
"In addition, I would like to influence young people to be passionate advocates on social and political issues such as climate change, social disorganisation and environmental racism.”
He has a head start.
James-Trim said during his stint as a reporter/television presenter at Tobago Updates, he has been able to amplify the voices of young people who often struggle to have their interests represented in the public domain.
“But being appointed Caricom youth ambassador feels like I have been given a platform to continue making an impact, this time on a wider horizon.”
James-Trim, believes his time at Tobago Updates was ordained by God. He loved being a television host and journalist, andwas especially passionate about his last project at the station before starting his law degree.
“I wanted to see more youths in media and advocacy, so I pleaded with management week after week to bring the journalism club from Signal Hill Secondary School on board so they can have a feel of the world of media.
"That is what I truly believe in, using my platforms and influence to clear pathways and create avenues for other young people to thrive in the Tobago space.
“The project was a success, and now we have an even more youthful touch to our studio where they actively participate and contribute to the media landscape in Tobago.”
During his tenure as youth ambassador, Trim wants to promote an environment that is supportive of youth participation and leadership.
“It’s sad that if an older head fails or make a mistake it’s on them, but when a young person fails or falls short in life, it's collectively. It’s important as youths that we have each other’s back and create a supportive and safe environment for one another.”
As part of his role, he is hoping to mobilise youth groups on the island.
“Too often, we are seeing that our youth groups are extremely seasonal. You’ll see them for a back-to-school drive, Christmas hampers, one or two other projects here and there – but what’s happening in between?
“In a time where our youth demographic is being plagued by stigma, especially our young men who may appear to be on the opposite side of the law, creating avenues through which all demographics of youth can get involved and engage in constructive and meaningful work that would result in social change, national and sustainable development and that sense of community, is top priority.”
James-Trim is also passionate about ending what he considers tokenism in Tobago. He believes it is one of the biggest issues confronting the island’s youth.
“Youth tokenism is a rising issue here, where young people only seem to have value around election time.
“We’ll see the 'youth votes matter' movements and 'youth in politics' hashtags, but sadly, young people that engage in politics are quickly relegated and blacklisted for expressing their political stance and engaging in their civic duty as citizens of TT.”
He believes the “older heads” and other authority figures encourage this.
“Too often young people are used for the photo ops, PR stunts and for the purpose of saying, ‘We have a youthful perspective,’ when in actuality that youthful perspective is not acknowledged or respected.”
James-Trim said while some may argue that the reason for this is the age gap between adults and young people, he believes it boils down to a lack of respect.
Asked if he feels tokenism can be eliminated, he said, “That's debatable, but what I can assure you is that the youth’s tolerance towards tokenism is getting lower as the year progresses.
"We are not here for show. Our youthfulness is not an ornament that you can manipulate and dangle in the eyes of the public to push a narrative.
“We are voicing our concerns and it's time for young people to be given the opportunity to build meaningful connections with you all and also have a useful and respected seat at the decision table. The days of us working twice and hard for half as much are over.”
James-Trim believes it is part of his mission to create an “inclusive” environment in which Tobago’s youth can thrive.
“I always encourage those that would have revealed to me that they don't feel a sense of belonging in the youth groups that the only qualification you need to get into youth work is to be a young individual that would like to make a positive contribution to the society that they live in.”
He said there is "obvious segregation in the youth space," by which he means many young people that would like to get into youth work, "but because of this perception or the image that youth groups are for the nerds, the degree holders, the 'elites,' the strata of youths that don't necessarily fall into those categories now feel that they do not belong.”
James-Trim also said unemployment, lack of support and opportunities for young entrepreneurs, insufficient emphasis on youth involvement in agriculture and the migration of skilled and knowledgeable personnel are among the issues affecting the island’s youth.
On a personal note, he's very passionate about standing up for those who cannot fend for themselves, a trait he got from his grandparents.
“My work in the media was focused on representing those who seem to be traditionally marginalised in today’s society, and with my LLB, I see myself boosting that work.”
He said his grandparents always wanted him to study law.
“But I just didn't like the feeling of my future being planned for me without my input, so I opted for medicine instead. They had a huge role to play in my education, despite it not being what they suggested.”
James-Trim said his grandmother’s death, in particular, seriously affected his mental health.
“So I feel like this degree is an opportunity for me to pay homage to my grandparents. I also chose law after realising that there are certain demographics here in TT that are not being represented well in our legal system.
“I would like to be a part of that movement towards the reform of our justice system, so that some level of egalitarianism is achieved.
"I also like to argue my point down to the ground, too –so there’s that.”