KINGSTON — "It was the best experience ever! I’ve never been through anything like that," was how Shantel Stewart, one of three St. Jago High School students expressed her excitement over her once-in-a-lifetime experience at the U.S. leg of the annual Global Youth Leaders Conference (GYLC) this year.
"It was an eye-opener for me. I learnt so much, I met so many persons. People were crying because they didn’t want to leave," she explained.
Shantel, Christine Broadbelt and Khari Stewart were chosen by the high school to attend the prestigious event held in New York and Washington D.C. this summer.
The GYLC is a unique leadership development programme that brings outstanding young people together, to build critical leadership skills within a global context. Since 1985, it has been offering students, globally, an opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas with some of the world’s top business leaders, policy officials, lobbyists, journalists, diplomats and academics.
Over 200,000 young people, 15-18 years old, from some 100 countries have participated. This summer it was held in the USA, China and Europe, between June 12 and August 10.
The St. Jago trio faced challenges raising funds to cover the total cost of the trip, which was $1.05 million. The school’s principal, Sandra Swyer-Watson, was very instrumental in helping them raise the first $730,000, with the help of a few corporate companies and organisations, the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica, family members and through their own initiatives.
The JIS had appealed to corporate Jamaica in a May article titled, “Students need support to attend global youth leaders meeting in U.S.” which garnered support to raise the remaining $320,000 needed, to which a number of other entities intervened including: Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB), TIP Friendly Society, Benjamin’s, Angels of Love, the National Commercial Bank, Tank Weld Limited, Quality Distributors and LIME.
“I was so enthused by the programme, because it was so structured, and they had everything planned out for us with simulations and activities and guests speakers that captured your interest. I met people from all over the world, and we’re still friends now. We talk on Facebook and Messenger,” Khari shared his sentiments with JIS News.
The recently graduated sixth form students also commented on their sessions with international dynamic speakers such as Dr. Gary Weaver, who spoke on “The Iceberg Effect and Cross Cultural Communication”, as well as discussions on politics, health and other major world issues.
One of the events that stood out in Christine’s mind, was a visit to the U.S. National Museum of the Holocaust.
“Being there and seeing the emotions on the faces of the Jewish persons in our group, I could empathize with them and what the Jews went through during that period,” she said.
The sessions and simulations were well received by the students, and Khari stated that they will help in real life situations, “because we learnt to be diplomats for our country."
The students were surprised that many who attended the conference were more aware of Jamaica’s high points, than the crime and violence reported in our media, daily.
“We noticed that among the young people, their perception of Jamaica is not so much about the crime, but about the beauty of the island and the music and culture,” said Christine.
This was reiterated by Khari who added that they represented Jamaica so well, that their new found friends want to come to Jamaica.
“Many of them plan to visit the island next year,” he said.
The final day of conference was highlighted by a banquet on a cruise ship at which, he said, the Caribbean participants “brought the vibe”.
“We showed off our dance moves and energy, and some of the other nationals joined in and tried to do the moves too. It was fun,” he recalled.
After such an eventful summer, the trio returned home to continue preparations for their next academic step: university.
Khari has gained entrance to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Bio-Medical Studies at the London Metropolitan University, and Shantel has begun her freshman year at the University of Technology (UTech), pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the field of Computing.
Christine is now in her first year at the University of the West Indies (UWI), pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the field of Psychology. She won the Miss EmanciFest Festival Queen 2011 title on August 1, in her St. Catherine community of Sligoville
Their past principal, Sandra Swyer-Watson, said the students benefited greatly from the experience, and it would be good if other children could go, as well, in the future.
“I am appealing to corporate Jamaica to sponsor voluntarily these kinds of activities in a tangible way. They are very expensive (to the students), (but) it takes them into the international area (and) that is an invaluable (experience),” she said.
Mrs. Swyer-Watson thanked the St. Jago Past Students Association, and the school family, for assisting.
By Christine Ade-Gold, JIS PRO