This morning is the realization of one aspect of a broad vision I had to partner with various stakeholders in building hope, confidence, a heightened sense of purpose, and sound values in Jamaican families, youth and education. It feels like only yesterday when the Summer of Service (SOS) aspect of the vision, which you come to know as the I Believe Initiative, started to materialize. Since then, many tertiary students and aspirants to tertiary institutions have shared heartening stories of achievement, personal development and boosted morale through this activity which fosters volunteerism as one route to the securing of employable skills and tuition assistance.
About the SOS
We have had 45 students to date participating in the programme since its inception in 2013. In that regard, I am very pleased to share with you that our top SOS Scholarship winner in 2013, Abrahim Simmonds (who is here with us today) will be the first awardee from the programme to graduate from university, when the Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work is conferred on him by the University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI) in November 2016. Let’s applaud Abrahim, who with the help of the SOS, is ready to boldly face the ‘world of work.’
Ladies and gentlemen, the SOS awardees are ambitious young persons who are committed to being successful in their academic and professional pursuits. This year’s recipients will undertake a mix of courses, mostly in the field of the science, which reflect an alignment with the national STEM priorities for Jamaica’s development.
This morning we are awarding scholarships and grants of approximately $8.8 million to nine students, covering tuition of between 1-4 years in duration at the following tertiary institutions;
G.C. Foster College, Caribbean Maritime Institute, Northern Caribbean University, the University of the West Indies, Mona; the University of Technology, Jamaica; and Excelsior Community College.
These students used their summer holidays to volunteer in partner organizations and gained skills that will no doubt give them the advantage when they are ready for fulltime employment. Their commitment to pursuing these voluntary activities when they could be enjoying themselves otherwise, must be commended.
Tertiary Education in Jamaica
•The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has indicated that the demand for tertiary education in Jamaica grew by 40% between 2005 and 2010, moving from just below 49,000 to more than 68,000 in five years.
This is a promising trend and indicates how well citizens understand that tertiary education is vital to their personal success and the country’s competitiveness and growth.
•Unfortunately, the reality is that more and early planning is needed to fund tertiary education which funding is often only appreciated by many students very late; at a time when they cannot pay for the tuition.
Benefits of the SOS and the Awardees
•This fact underscores the relevance of the SOS Award in encouraging more youth to serve and to be recognized with assistance for their tertiary education.
•The SOS is also very important to our young people as it affords them the opportunity to have constructive early work experiences that complement their education, since many employers are now requiring work experience even from new graduates.
Encouragement for the Recipients
• I encourage you recipients, to build on the foundational experience you have gained while volunteering in the various organizations during the Summer.
Don’t forget the valuable lessons learnt from the time you spent at:
o Harbour View Police Station
o Clarendon Youth Information Centre
o Pinnock’s Basic School
o Jamaica Combined Cadet Force
o St. Joseph’s Hospital
o Black River Hospital
o Highgate Health Professional Clinic and Nursing Home
o Petersfield Sports and Community Club
o Missionaries of the Poor, and
o Mustard Seed Communities
•As you pursue your various courses of study, bear in mind that the principal demands being made of twenty first century workers include creativity, critical and divergent thinking, self-awareness and integration of knowledge. Therefore, do your part to ensure that your quest for higher education prepares you to cope with the rapid social changes at the national and global levels.
•Though you would have benefited from this award, this should not be the end of your voluntary service to community and nation. Continue nurturing a habit of service because it will positively contribute to economic goodwill and social equity.
•And, remember to make excellence your hallmark so that you can keep or surpass the 3.0 GPA requirement of this programme.
In conclusion, please help me express gratitude to the following sponsors:
oThe Caribbean Maritime Institute
o Northern Caribbean University
o University of Technology, Jamaica
o Kingston Wharves
o JPS Foundation
o First Regional Cooperative Credit Union Ltd.
o Guiseppe Maffessanti
o Other corporate and civic bodies
They, ladies and gentlemen, are making a vital investment in education and human development, thus improving our national prospects for economic and social advancement.
•Also, help me extend a big thank you to the organizations which hosted our participants, the judges, our GGPE National Coordinator, Major (Ret’d) Effiom Whyte and Project Officer, Ms. Tricia Grier.
•And all who attended today.
This morning has given me added assurance that, we are on course to fixing Jamaica by using what’s right about us.