It is no surprise that 19-year-old St. Elizabeth 4-H Clubbite, Whitney Smith, is an admirer of parishioner, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
She credits the Minister with the “rare talent of listening.”
“His humility and eagerness to listen, tell me that he is serious about his work as a representative of the people,” she explains.
Whitney recalls that while returning from school one day, she saw Dr. Tufton in her community.
Whitney Smith, makes a gesture during the interview.
“I was just 17, never had a vote. I quizzed him on many topics; he stood there and answered all my questions. The fact is that a campaign was on and I could not vote, yet he gave me the time of listening and, at the end, he encouraged me in my school work. He earned my respect and admiration,” she recalls.
Whitney is very interested in agriculture, and while she partners with her parents in the rearing of goats, pigs and chicken, she not only listens to their advice about rearing livestock, but she encourages other young farmers to do the same and she has always shown a keen interest in the success of the 4-H movement.
“There are things that you have to do, despite how you feel about doing them. My parents were not going to stop farming so, after many mornings getting up at six o’clock to help them, it has become a part of me,” she admits.
Whitney Smith engages her family at home. From l-r, baby sister in lap, Zenovia, Justine, (Centre), and mother, Diana Smith.
Whitney was honoured by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) on Heroes Day, 2008, for her involvement with the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, as well as with Our Lady of Hope Children’s Home in Black River, which houses about 30 children between 3 months and 15 years old.
Born in the tranquil community of Fyffes Pen, St. Elizabeth, Whitney received her early schooling at the St. Theresa Basic School.
“They showed a lot of kindness and much of that caring and yearning to help when you see a need existing, I believe, came from the teachers at the basic school. They really had an impact on me,” she says.
A member of the 4-H Club since 2003, after being introduced by big sister Susan, she said that she intends to continue to make herself available to the cause.
“The 4-H Club has made me what I am today. I followed my sister and became a member. After she won a prize, I wanted to win a prize too. It’s an organisation that teaches you many things, and then it tests you,” she notes.
Whitney, who rose to become President of the Black River High School 4-H Club while she was a student there, says that she enjoys community work.
“People will always have personal difficulties, but I could not sit by and not be concerned about how my neighbour, who I might not have seen for days, is doing,” she says.
She remembers the JCDC award, as a special one.
“I felt very good when people came and congratulated me. That’s when it really dawned on me that it was a special occasion, and it will push me to do more community work,” she adds.
Principal of Black River High School, Barrington Buchanan, said that the JCDC award came as little surprise to him, as he had long recognised his past student as an exceptional, disciplined and forward thinking individual.
“When you are at a school where students are as active as Miss Smith was, it exposes you to their thoughts and, for a long time, I saw her as very organised. She knew what she wanted and was prepared to work to achieve it,” he says.
He says that when news came that she was honoured on Heroes’ Day by the JCDC, “mi glad bag just buss.” Dr. Buchanan adds that, “Someone like her needs to be held up for emulation.”
Whitney believes that the 4-H Club is one of the best institutions to reach out to youths.
“I can bake, embroider and make craft items. I can now stand in the public arena and speak fearlessly, because of the skills I was taught through 4-H,” she says.
She says that her 2007 National 4-H Girl of the Year award was her “greatest achievement” yet.
“It allowed me to be on radio, television and be in newspapers, meet people and visit places that I had only dreamt about; experiences that have really built up my self confidence. I don’t know of another youth group that can make a young person feel growth and accomplishment as the 4-H,” Whitney says.
St. Elizabeth Parish Development Officer with the 4-H movement, Bridgette Powell, recalls Whitney as a “very reserved and quiet student” whom she first met in 2007.
“When I spoke with her, I discovered that she was a model student. Very outspoken, I could depend on her to tell me how she felt on issues. A focused youngster, and just the kind of young person Jamaica can depend on to build a better future,” Miss Powell recalls.
In September, Whitney will be embarking on another journey in her life: pursuing a Bachelor Degree in Political Science at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
But, she says that even on campus she will not be compromising her views, and she has some very strong ones, especially regarding young men.
“I find it distasteful to see young men with their pants down, and exposing parts of their body that should be private,” she comments.
“Much of these anti-social traits should be blamed on the fathers. They are missing from the homes and not there to give direction to the children, so what you find is a situation where the schools are called up on to do so much, because a lot is missing at home,” she states.
Whitney says her parents have played a great role in ensuring that she upholds certain standards.
“My parents are supportive, they give advice, do their best for all of us to get a good education. But, we have to work hard at what we do, and I believe that there is nothing that is impossible; anything that people want to do or be, they can. It is for them to decide how they are going to achieve it,” she concludes.