JIS News

At a time when many persons are expressing concern that there are too few positive role models in society, scores of adolescents in the Corporate Area have found a staunch advocate in Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU).
The voluntary organization, founded in 1991 by Social Worker, Betty Ann Blaine, provides a supervised mentoring programme and other positive interventions for in-school adolescents, through programmes designed to help students complete their post primary education and move on to higher education, employment or skills training.
YOU caters to some 1,500 youngsters in 12 schools across the Corporate Area each year, and an estimated half million through its wider outreach.
Executive Director of YOU, Georgia Scott, tells JIS News that the organisation’s reach goes beyond social barriers to provide support to the youth, signaling its belief that “the adolescent community is isolated (without) enough support”.
She says the hope is to instill a sense of belonging and identity by supplying the counsel and information needed to mould “wholesome human beings” and enable students to “make wise choices and acquire life skills and confidence”, mindful of the fact that YOU’s programmes affect not just the schools but the wider community.Mrs. Scott argues that increased self-confidence and self-esteem could impact positively on their academic work, as persons would have a “better understanding of themselves”. “We really would like to see again, that great sense of school pride.that sense of I am somebody,” she adds.
She notes that YOU has impacted on the lives of not just adolescents but the parents and teachers, through its parenting programme and workshops. “We touch lives all around,” she says.
The organization offers a homework centre at the Merle Grove High School in Kingston, summer day camps, workplace orientation, career guidance, motivational talks, training of peer counsellors in schools and mentoring consultancy.
Members also work with parents and guardians to enhance parenting skills, in addition to networking with other community youth-serving organizations, and lobby for the improvement of services to young people. It has also facilitated 26 other community groups in establishing youth mentoring programmes and has piloted mentoring programmes in three residential institutions for children on behalf of the government.Mrs. Scott says there have been many success stories, with several students performing very well at school and many parents endorsing the programme. She adds that the challenge now is the ability to respond to all the calls.
Twenty year-old Craig Mears is one of the many young persons who have benefited from the intervention of YOU. The youngster, who now works with the organization, and is also actively pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems at the Excelsior Community College, is at a loss for words to describe the programme’s impact on his life. “It has been awesome, worthwhile. seven years worth of growth and exposure,” he tells JIS News.
He points out that the programme has exposed him to various situations and enhanced his social skills. “My support has come from every direction in the office.career guidance, role model, mentor and friend,” Craig adds.
Today Craig is responsible for Youth Opportunities’ work experience programme, where he is the Project Officer. Under this programme 160 persons are placed in institutions for work experience each year.
Mrs. Scott explains that each support programme is regularly evaluated. She informs that the present focus is to establish a measurement system that can track the progress of YOU participants from the moment they enter the programme to 10 years after. The agency has also established a joint programme with the Citizens Security and Justice Programme, which has been taken to the Fletchers Land, August Town and Trench Town communities.
The non-profit organization is primarily funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), but also receives support from the Government, the private sector, and private individuals.
In addition to being a member of the International Mentoring Organization, YOU is affiliated locally with the People’s Action for Community Transformation (PACT), the Coalition for Better Parenting and the Jamaica Committee on Volunteerism.
It also collaborates with the Ministry of Health’s Child Support Unit, the Jamaica Coalition on the Rights of the Child, the Jamaica Foundation for Children, the Women’s Centre Foundation and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), among others.

Skip to content