Veteran Educator, Linnette Henry, is passionate about guiding troubled young persons, particularly boys, on a path to become useful citizens, and since 2004 she has assisted several of them.
Mrs. Henry, who has been teaching at the Christiana High School, in Manchester, for the past 23 years, has become ‘mother’ to scores of young men who, at some point during their school years, began to go down the wrong path.
She has opened her doors to many of them, where they have settled as part of her family and, through her firm but steady guidance, has reshaped their lives.
“She has been a tower of strength to me in many ways. She offered to help me with my son. I did not refuse, and I have no regrets,” says Kadian Pinnock.
Her son, Ashore Powell, who had become problematic at the school, was counselled by Mrs. Henry, and is now focused on his schoolwork.
“I really appreciate all the good things that she has done for me and my son. The job that I have doesn’t pay enough to do all the necessary things for him, and I don’t know if it is an angel, God or what has helped Mrs. Henry, so that she could help my son, in ways that we could not,” she tells JIS News.
Ms. Pinnock says her son was affected by an anger problem, and Mrs. Henry “worked on it,” and today, while he is not perfect, he speaks to others with respect, and “conducts himself intelligently.”
For Ashore, Mrs. Henry, who heads the Home Economics Department at the school, is a “very good role model,” and everything that a young man would appreciate, “especially a mother figure.”
He tells JIS News that he is motivated by Mrs. Henry, who is “always telling me of the good inside of me. She is my second mother.”
Another student, Applelonia Ellis, says in Mrs. Henry, the school has a “powerhouse, someone that you can sit and speak with.”
“God has blessed her differently. She has touched so many lives, and I am really proud of her,” Applelonia says.
For her part, Mrs. Henry says she devotes resources and time to assist children who are classified as “bad,” because she is a firm believer in the holistic development of individuals, and by helping to guide young people in the right direction, “my purpose on this earth would have been fulfilled.”
The Educator, who has been serving in the sector for 33 years, says she is “not fearful when it comes to things that I am convinced about.”
“So, when I see these persons I don’t see them as bad, I see them as individuals who really need help,” she adds.
Mrs. Henry says while other persons might leave them alone, she cannot “back away” from what she regards as her duty to help them.
“I am not going to confront them, I will approach them in a way that we can speak,” she tells JIS News.
With many of her students now in the working world and in tertiary institutions, Mrs. Henry is encouraging them to give back to other students.
“I get fulfilled from seeing these persons transformed from being “bad” to being honourable citizens. If we can prevent young men from becoming criminals, we would have a safer Jamaica, and I believe that if I can help one each year, I will be helping Jamaica to be a little safer. As long as I am around, I will be doing this,” she says.
In the meantime, Sophia Bradford, one of several parents who visited the school recently to thank Mrs. Henry, says her son had developed learning and behavioural challenges, and with two years at Mrs. Henry’s home, he turned his life around and is now in college.
Student, Rodje Simpson, shares that due to a “family situation,” he had become demotivated, and with financial support lacking, part of him was dying.
“Mrs. Henry took me into her house, and moulded me into a man. She has helped me a lot, she does her best to help us, giving us everything. We give thanks for her,” he says.
Chairman of the school, Dr. Ansel Gillman, says with teachers like Mrs. Henry, students reap the maximum benefit.
“We are here for the students, and some students are very close to being good, or being bad, and if you find them and pick them out early, they can become good,” he says.
Meanwhile, Principal of the school, Leecent Wallace, tells JIS News that Mrs. Henry also heads a group that they recently formed at the institution, called the Creative, Educated and Optimistic (CEO) Club, and through it she is able to “impact a number of our students positively.”
He says that fights at the school and on the streets between students have decreased, due to a number of intervention programmes they have initiated.
“We are making positive changes. Extensive work has been done on the school plant to make it more learner friendly, and this has helped to boost the morale of not just the staff, but the students,” the Principal says.