After completing a basic computer maintenance course at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), staying at home was not an option for 19-year-old Jovan Reid. That is why this aspiring Information Technology technician joined the Barbados Youth Service in 2012.
It was a life-changing decision too, because the combination of rigorous physical training, life development skills, academics, job attachment and community service, created the impetus for the person he has become today.
???I can safely say that I am now confident, assertive, patient and strong,??? Jovan said, during his valedictorian address at the Barbados Youth Service???s graduation ceremony last Saturday at the Lester Vaughn Secondary School.
The youngster???s notable qualities and outstanding performance did not go unrecognised, as he was honoured with the Minister???s Award, the Public Sector Award and Most Consistent Trainee Award.
Addressing fellow graduates, parents and other guests at the graduation, Jovan declared that the Barbados Youth Service gives youth the chance to reach their true potential.
???Compared to the school system, [where] a bad-behaved student may be repeatedly suspended, overlooked and eventually expelled, that same individual at the Barbados Youth Service is constantly disciplined, all while his or her talents are explored, giving him or her hope,??? he explained.
However, he lamented that the institution was now faced with several challenges, including limited space and funding which had forced a reduction in student intake.
Regardless, he stressed: ???In times like these when jobs are so hard to get and crime is becoming more prevalent, and many of the youth are ???copping out??? via suicide and the misuse of drugs, it is comforting to know that there is a Barbados Youth Service. It is one institution I would strongly recommend because of its nurturing and disciplinary environment.???
Describing his journey in the Barbados Youth Service as ???adventurous???, he recalled that his first days in the residential phase of the programme were tough.
???Imagine, before the fowl cock crows or the sun rises???rain or sun, having to do a two mile run at the start of a fully structured day of physical activities,??? the former Deighton Griffith student said.
???Many times I wanted to give up???but truthfully, the dynamics of the group work, the interaction of dorm life, the camaraderie in sports and the discipline associated with military training, were all too exciting to pass up,??? he reminisced.
According to him, phase two, which focussed on Life Development Skills, was the most challenging stage of the programme. ???Many trainees dropped out during this phase,??? Jovan admitted, adding that ???Not only were participants required to attend classes, but they were also obligated to maintain good conduct, discipline and high levels of deportment.???
During this phase, the students were trained in Water Safety at the Coast Guard Headquarters where they learnt First Aid, Safety Procedures, Basic Fire Fighting and Rescue at Sea.
Approximately half of the trainees were afforded the opportunity to participate in the Job Attachment phase, with several being allocated to private and public sector institutions.
Jovan interned at the Bureau of Gender Affairs where he assisted staff and interacted with foreign dignitaries. ???This, in my opinion, was the cr??me de la cr??me of the programme,??? he contended, stating that he had gained much needed work experience.
The 19-year-old added that the Community Service component of the Barbados Youth Service, made a positive difference in the lives of many of the trainees as this phase helped with building character and respect for the elderly.
Trainees were required to complete 44 hours of community service. This included beach clean-ups, beautifying the environment, and providing assistance and companionship at geriatric hospitals and senior citizens??? homes.
???[Community service] taught us a sense of sharing and caring for whom we would normally ignore, but most of all, it heightened our awareness for the environment and gave us a greater appreciation for life,??? the valedictorian reasoned.
Jovan???s only regret was that the pursuit of his Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations was ???inadvertently discontinued??? due to the non-renewal of temporary contracts for the teaching staff at the institution.
???This was definitely a shattering experience because getting to do my CXCs was the main reason why I joined in the first place,??? he remarked, but noted he would further his studies in that area at the SJPP.
Nonetheless, he called for the expansion of academic programmes and pointed out that the institution also needed to introduce basic level technical courses such as architectural studies, computer repairs, and computer aided design.
???[This would] help those persons who are so inclined but could not meet the requirements to enter the other tertiary institutions,??? he underscored.
Jovan advised his fellow graduates to ???every so often, reflect on life, especially the positive change we have made despite the challenges we face.???
While he acknowledged that jobs were hard to get and money even harder, he told his peers, ???We learnt at the Barbados Youth Service vital survival skills. We may not have all the qualifications, but we have the fortitude and the right attitude to go forward and make the most of life.???