Kemesha Kelly - Student Leader Supporting Adolescent Participation.
Kemesha Kelly, a 16 year old grade 11 student at St. Hilda’s High School is the present president of the National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC), the umbrella organisation through which local students’ councils operate. The NSSC represents approximately 230,000 secondary-level students, island wide. Its core functions are: to advocate for the protection of students’ rights, to protect students from injustices, to represent their interests and to arbitrate for them and to provide training for members.
This articulate young lady is no stranger to leadership or to student government. In grade seven she was the student council representative for her class, in grade eight she was form captain and in grade nine she was again student council representative and ran for regional secretary for the NSSC. At present she is also Lieutenant Governor in her school’s Key Club, vice-president of the Debate Society and is actively involved in church activities.
“When we heard that the National Council was reactivated the school encouraged me to run. I had some reservations but eventually they persuaded me to run for regional secretary and I got the position.”
As regional secretary, she helped plan meetings, set up the agenda for the various meetings, ensure the representation of all schools in the area on the regional body and plan and implement projects and activities, including activities for International Students’ Day and Student Council Week.
In May 2005, after serving for a year as regional secretary, Kemesha successfully ran for the post of national president. The members of the NSSC executive were required to undergo two weeks of training, organised by the NCYD in summer 2005.
“The training was held at the University of the West Indies and it was very intensive,” Kemesha explains. “We covered various topics including public speaking, advocacy, conflict resolution, anger management and leadership. The most important thing is that we were facilitated to do the work ourselves.”
Kemesha feels that she and the other members of the NSSC executive have benefited tremendously from the experience, and she notes that participants were drawn from a wide cross section of Jamaican students.
“The main aim of the training was to develop well-rounded student leaders. I believe after all the training that I am a better public speaker, that my thoughts flow more freely and that I have learnt to appreciate others’ opinions. We also learnt that leadership is a team effort, that a leader must learn to cooperate with other persons.”
Kemesha says that the present Council has decided to focus on the problem of crime and violence and its impact on schools. “It needs to be eliminated and crime and violence in communities is a big problem for students living in these areas. It has a terrible impact on the education system and on Jamaican students and youth as whole.”
As a youth leader and a student leader, Kemesha believes in the power of young people and the importance of providing support and training to all young people so that they, like her, are able to make a difference.
“I think Jamaica is blessed with the best of young people. Many of them have lots of potential but they lack the positive role models and persons to encourage and support them. I think that each person who has become successful needs to impart and share their experiences with these youth. We need this particularly in our inner city communities where so many children and young people have talents and potential but are not in a supportive environment. If they got the chance, they would be able to shine.”