“I ENCOURAGE THE Ministry of Education, public and private sector companies present here tonight to continue being examples for others to follow, to go the extra mile for our youth to excel,” charged fifth-grader Makeda Henry. She was delivering the keynote address at Junior Achievement Jamaica’s (JAJ) third annual Champions for Youth Awards Banquet and Silent Auction held at the Knutsford Court Hotel recently (May 27).

 

Makeda, the little over four-feet-tall student of Allman Town Primary, climbed atop a made-shift stage and delivered her speech with panache and abundant confidence to a capacity audience that included Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and JAJ Board Chairman Paul Lalor.

She focused her speech on three points: what they need as children being educated, what they want to achieve and how they will change the world. “We need an education system that is tailored to the realities of the environment we live in, and we are not just speaking of our communities, or our nation but the world at large,” she said.

 

With the audience nodding in agreement, Makeda called on the Ministry of Education to give every child a fair chance, especially those with a challenging socio-economic background. She encouraged parents to prioritize the provision of tools that children need to be successful students. She also encouraged teachers to be more punctual and see their jobs as an opportunity to actively play a part in shaping the future.

 

Makeda, who was the Chief Executive Officer of the JA BizTown Newspaper facility during her visit for a one day practical simulation of the working world, disclosed that she got a real idea of what a corporate office is like and some of the tools and technology she will use in the future.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, my experience in the Junior Achievement BizTown programme, summed it all up,” she recounted. “It made me experience first-hand what working is all about. It made me understand what I am required to do as a citizen of a nation – work, pay taxes, obey the rule of law, and purchase goods and services to keep the money flowing.”

 

The Champions for Youth Awards Banquet honours individuals, companies and organizations that go the extra mile in supporting JAJ to advance the development of youth across the island. The entire ceremony was run by Junior Achievement Alumni and current students including Jerome Cowans, who was recently lauded by President Obama at the Youth Leaders Forum two months ago, and fifth grader Joshua Wallen, recently featured as the Maxfield Park Primary Mayor for JA BizTown.

 

Among the audience were the fourteen teacher awardees that were being honoured for their exceptional role in delivering Junior Achievement programmes. Also in attendance were representatives from companies and organizations being honoured by JAJ – namely Ministry of Education, United States Agency for International Development, Citi Foundation, Caribbean Broilers, EY, Grace Kennedy, High Commission of Canada, JN Fund Managers, Flow Jamaica, GB Energy Jamaica, Guardsman Group, Insurance Company of the West Indies, Jamaica Public Service, Jamaica Yellow Pages, LIME Foundation, NCB Foundation, Scotiabank, Spanish Court Hotel, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, Financial Services Commission, Gleaner Company, General Electric, Jamaica Information Service and Jamaica Flour Mills.