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Twenty-two year old, Northern Caribbean University (NCU) student, Sheldon Owen, is one of the many young Jamaicans who have participated in and benefited from the National Youth Service’s (NYS) corps programmes.
This is a four-week training and re-socialisation programme which affords youths, between 17 and 24, much valuable work experience, through placements in private or public sector entities partnering with the NYS to facilitate and accommodate them.
Sheldon, who aspires to a career in teaching, says that the training he received, while on the NYS programme, prompted this decision.
“(I have chosen this field) because of the exposure I have gained from the National Youth Service. I gained experience in a teaching environment, when I did my six months of training,” he says.
During the six-month stint, he was involved in the primary education corps programme assisting teachers.
Having joined the service in January, 2006, Sheldon boasts that his involvement in the behaviour change model course has exposed him to the qualities of leadership.
“It has also exposed me to anger management, which helps me to deal with my problems more effectively. So basically, the whole curriculum has helped me in enhancing my self esteem, thus making me a better person,” he points out.
He explains that, for a while, he was “nervous”, especially when he found out that the camp was to be operated by soldiers. However, his fears were dispelled during the initial phase of orientation under the guidance and supervision of key camp personnel.
Sheldon says participating in the programme heightened his awareness, made him more open minded, especially when he got the chance to represent the country in Canada. He was chosen for a cultural exchange programme- The Jamaica/ Canada Youth Exchange (JAMCANYE). This is an annual programme jointly conducted by Canada World Youth and the NYS which focuses on literacy.
The programme is staged over a seven-month period, during which participants spend three and a half months in Canada and Jamaica, respectively, volunteering with different organisations.
He says that another benefit he derived from the programme was the assistance he received for payment of a portion of his tuition fee.
“After completing the programme successfully, you get 22 per cent of your tuition fee paid by the Government. Furthermore, if you do the JAMVAT, which is another programme under the NYS, you get 30 per cent more. So, in total, you would be getting 52 per cent of your tuition fee paid by the Government,” he points out.
Once participants have completed their six-month stint, and have successfully gained entry into a tertiary institution, they should visit the NYS website or call the offices and apply for the benefits, he says.
Sheldon is currently enrolled at NCU pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary teacher education, with a major in Social Studies and a minor in Information Technology.
He has also volunteered as a mentor through the NYS success programme, as a teacher at the Bamboo Primary and Junior High School and Lower Buxton All-Age School, both in St. Ann.
Currently he is in the process of starting a literacy programme in his community, Pepper, St. Elizabeth, to help the young and the old who might feel isolated, or alienated, because of their illiteracy. He further says the level of exposure and experience, which he has received by participating in the programme, has been a confidence booster enabling him to do whatever he wants.
“The NYS programme is very significant, because it helps with the re-socialisation process of the unattached youths. A young person leaving high school, (who) is unsure of which career path to take, or just wants to take a year’s break from going to college or university, can join the NYS and get exposure, life changing experiences and also reap benefits such as assistance with your tuition fee,” he notes.
Realising the positive impact that the NYS has made on his life, he has made every effort to promote the programme among young persons around him.
Sheldon is imploring that all young Jamaicans who want a change in their lives become a part of the service, as the programme’s purpose and objective are not only geared towards providing jobs, but also towards the individual’s professional and personal development.

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