Stop #4 - Port Antonio High School
The Talk Up Yout School Tour was welcomed to Portland by cool sea breezes and lush verdant hills; a stark contrast from the heat of Kingston. The tour, which is powered by Emprezz Golding, UNICEF, National Baking Company, Purewater and Island Grill, was accompanied by Shaquani McKenzie who is a representative of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network and Youth Empowerment Officer Dowell Williams.
The panel discussion at Port Antonio High School was moderated by Emprezz and included five students Chavar Johnson, Janelle Hallwood, Kabidi Morris, Shanique Beckford and Ryan Anderson, representing grades 7 through 11. Senior Programmes Development Officer at the National Center for Youth Development and Director of the Forward Step Foundation – Miguel ‘Steppa’ Williams also sat on the panel alongside roots reggae artiste Nature and the guidance counselor of Port Antonio High School Mr Bailey.
One major difference between Port Antonio High School and all other schools that the Talk Up Yout School Tour has visited, is that the students did not name crime and violence as one of the issues they face. Their guidance counselor, Mr Bailey pointed out that crime and violence levels in Portland are minimal when compared to the levels experienced in the cities and major towns on the South Coast. However, he noted that domestic violence is an issue which the students are exposed to.
Other issues raised by both students on the panel and students in the audience included diseases, namely diabetes, stress, peer pressure, bullying, lack of parental guidance, gambling, illiteracy, condoms in schools, premature sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, suicide, social media safety, bleaching and unemployment.
Bullying was an issue which solicited many comments from the students in the audience. Emprezz asked them to identify the bullies in their midst and she spoke to them (the bullies) about the consequences of their actions, empowering them to declare publicly that they would refrain from harassing their peers.
The issue of premature sexual activity also got the students to talk up. When Emprezz asked the students to raise their hands if they knew anyone under seventeen who was pregnant most of the students raised their hands. This sparked a discussion about the factors influencing young people to engage in sexual activity.