The team of (from left) Soyini Alexander, Micaela Smith and Tajwayne Bruce, show off their prize for winning the debate competition during the closing ceremony of the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) Young Educated Leaders, Lead (YELL) training programme held at The Source in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, on November 20.
Photo: Okoye Henry

Young people from communities across Westmoreland have benefited from training to better prepare them to take up roles as future community leaders under the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) inaugural Young Educated Leaders, Lead (YELL) programme.

The initiative, which began in October, concluded on November 20 with a debate competition and closing ceremony at The Source in Savanna-la-Mar, under the theme ‘Youth…The Cornerstone of Nation-Building’.

The training programme sought to build leadership skills among the youth and included sessions in parliamentary procedure, team building, good citizenship, debate, and other activities.

Some of the participants were from the Youth Summer Employment Programme (YSEP) where 290 youngsters from the parish were engaged.

Soyini Alexander (at lectern) puts forward her argument in the debate competition, held during the closing ceremony of the Social Development Commission (SDC) Young Educated Leaders, Lead (YELL) training programme held at The Source in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, on November 20. Listening (from left) are Shanique Linton, Rajashe Baker, and Petrena Tennant from the opposing team.


SDC’s Parish Manager for Westmoreland, Carolyn Brown-James, tells JIS News that it is critical that young people be motivated and empowered to step up and become leaders in their respective communities and parish.

She says that many of the current community leaders are elderly and there is need for succession planning.

“This training programme is an idea that came up when we saw the deficiencies in the parish of Westmoreland. Many of our leaders have served for many years and they are now elderly persons. So, these young persons were trained to ensure that the leadership continues and that they succeed those who have served for many years,” she  notes.

Mrs. Brown-James notes that the training started out on a virtual platform with 62 persons and “39 of them participated consistently, and so they have now graduated”.

She says that with the YELL programme, “Westmoreland will be in better hands over time as the continuous training and grooming of these youngsters will position the parish as the epicentre of strong youth leadership in Jamaica”.

“We have leaders coming forward from all the areas in Westmoreland to represent their [communities] in a positive direction, where youths now see themselves as future leaders and working to ensure that leadership continues not only in Westmoreland but in Jamaica,” she adds.

During the YELL closing ceremony, participants were awarded certificates of participation and they engaged in a friendly debate competition where they put their leadership skills on display.

The winning team was awarded a trophy and a cash prize of $80,000 while the runner-up team received $50,000.

Micaela Smith of Darliston received awards for Most Outstanding Female in YELL and Best Speaker in the debate. Mario Clarke from Williams Hill District was presented with the award for Most Outstanding Boy in YELL.

Mario Clarke (right) from Williams Hill District in Westmoreland accepts the Most Outstanding Boy trophy from Community Development Officer at the Social Development Commission (SDC), Fanc Murdock, during the closing ceremony of the SDC’s Young Educated Leaders, Lead (YELL) Training Programme held at The Source in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, on November 20.


Micaela tells JIS News that having participated in YSEP, she felt compelled to pursue training under the YELL programme.

“It (YELL) was great. This programme was just another opportunity to better myself and to learn more,” she says.

“Overall, I gained more confidence, and the value of stepping out of my comfort zone and… learning more, which is going to allow me to help my community in whatever way I can,” she adds.

Mario, for his part, tells JIS News that he became involved in the YELL training programme to gain the tools necessary to positively transform his community.

“I want to be involved and to be a better me, develop my personal skills and develop my community. [YELL] helped me with my confidence, it helped me to move towards other things, as I am also planning to create a youth club in my community. So, this was a good experience,” he says.

He tells JIS News that being named the Most Outstanding Boy is a testament to his commitment to change his parish and he is urging other young Jamaican males to follow suit.

“I would recommend a programme like this to the wider Jamaica to occupy young males like myself in making progress and being productive. I have learned a lot that I can take back to help my community. It was a great experience, and I would do this again, anytime,” Mario says.


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