Trench Town teens participate in holistic change programme

Close to 40 grade-nine students at Charlie Smith High are poised to emerge better-rounded individuals through the “Agents of Transformation” social initiative launched by USAID Local Partner Development and Sterling Asset Management Limited.

The project, officially launched in Trench Town on December 2, 2022, sees at-risk students being the primary recipients of after-school academic support, psychosocial counselling, conflict resolution, and life skills training.

Michelle Valentine, Assistant Vice-President (AVP) of Marketing and Communications at Sterling Asset Management, explained at the media launch that the participating cohort was selected earlier in August.

Student engagement began in October, with the programme concluding in March 2023.

Agents for Transformation also incorporates students’ parents in a holistic approach, as they will also benefit from parenting workshops to better assist their children and lessen domestic violence.

“Today is a special day at Charlie Smith High School as it marks the start of Agents of Transformation. The project will equip 30 third-form students with lifelong skills and tools to make healthy lifestyle choices, develop coping skills and improve relationships with their families and peers. There is also academic support in Mathematics and English,” remarked Valentine.

From left: Michelle Valentine, Assistant Vice President, Marketing and Communications; Morana Smodlaka Krajnović, Chief of Party of the Jamaica Local Partner Development Project and Country Representative for FHI 360 Jamaica; Mark Golding, President of the People’s National Party, Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament for South St. Andrew; Marian Ross-Ammar, Director Trading and Investments at Sterling Asset Management; Charles Ross, President and CEO of Sterling Asset Management; Major Richard Cooke, president of Joy Town Community Development Foundation and Rev. Dr Lenworth Anglin, Chairman of Joy Town Community Development Foundation and former Executive Chairman of the Church of God in Jamaica.

For his part, South St Andrew Member of Parliament Mark Golding embraced the collaborative Agents of Transformation initiative as a positive step for the youth of Trench Town, particularly as Charlie Smith High serves as the only secondary-level institution for the wider community.

“I want to thank Sterling and the USAID for funding the programme. Trench Town is a great community but [one which has] more than its fair share of challenges as well. As we know, these are communities where over the years, we have suffered from social neglect. Crime and violence are often features of life, and out of that come all kinds of social problems that we associate with inner-city life in Jamaica,” he began.

Morana Smodlaka Kranjnovic, Chief of Party within the USAID Local Partner Development Programme, informed that Agents for Transformation is being implemented by FHI 360; a non-profit human development organisation tasked with improving lives through integrated, locally driven solutions.

According to Kranjnovic, the Local Partner Development Programme has been working assiduously since 2017 to bring all sections of Jamaican society together to foster peace island-wide, including civil groups, private and public sectors and the opposition. She also acknowledged Sterling Asset Management’s integral role in the project and thanked the company for taking the initiative to be involved with at-risk youth.

Christopher Wright, the newly installed Principal of Charlie Smith High, is eager to see the project’s successful implementation as he holds lofty hopes for the soon-to-be transformed participating cohort.

Marian Ross-Ammar, Director of Trading and Investments at Sterling Asset Management, was joined by two students of the Charlie Smith High School as they shared their experience so far in being a part of the Agents for Transformation Project.

Marian Ross-Ammar, Vice-President of Trading and Investments at Sterling Asset Management Limited, applauded the 30 Charlie Smith students for being brave and taking their first transformative steps. 

Speaking directly to the participating cohort, Ross-Ammar acknowledged that change is often hard but fulfilling.

“I think being a teenager is hard. We are inspired by your courage and willingness to listen to the advice you are being given. Your efforts in this programme, regardless of the outcome, will be one of the most empowering things you do with your life. To take responsibility and try to change your future, that’s a very scary thing, but it can be very fruitful,” she noted further.

Salome Campbell, a participating parent, sang praises of the Agents for Transformation project, which she credited for positively influencing her grade nine son since he joined in August.

“I have had my son in the programme since August. He was really troubled with anger issues, and I have seen such a change in him. He loves the programme. At evening time, he stays back for classes. I really like the project and I invited everybody—teachers, [other] parents and students—to come on board and see what it is about,” Campbell elaborated.

Local Partner Development (LPD) is a six-year activity implemented by FHI  360 and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).