Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Cops, JN give youth shot at success

Published:Wednesday | November 6, 2019 | 12:14 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Jena Martin (left), 11th-grader of the Convent of Mercy (Alpha Academy), and 10th-grader of Camperdown High School, Shaquille Russell, show off their scholarship letters from the Area Four Police Civic Committee at the JN Genral Insurance Education Trust Fund Awards Ceremony 2019. At centre is CEO of JN General Insurance, Christopher Hind. Hind is also a member of the executive committee of the Area Four Police Civic Committee.

Two teenagers from the gritty Rum Lane community in central Kingston say they are determined not to become victims or agents of the violence that besets Jamaica’s capital city, which is stained by urban blight and crime.

Shaquille Russell, a 10th-grader at Camperdown High, and Jena Martin, who is in fifth form at the Convent of Mercy (Alpha) Academy, were among more than 100 high-school students from the Corporate Area who received scholarship grants on Thursday at the Police Officers’ Club in St Andrew, courtesy of the Area Four Police Civic Committee and JN General Insurance.

The students are, or were, part of police youth clubs in their communities and were recognised for their potential.

This is Russell’s third year winning the scholarship, worth $15,000. Though not a hefty sum, he is grateful nonetheless.

BALANCE YOUR TIME

“Where I live, nuff people go to school, and out of everybody, Jena and I are here. This shows that others can do it if they put their minds to it. Living in the ghetto, you have to balance your time. Sometimes I am around the big youths, sitting on the corner talking, but another day, I decide to stay in and study or revise work I didn’t understand,” he told The Gleaner.

Russell said his sister, who is now in university, has been a huge motivator for him. Despite the age difference between the siblings, he partly credits the frequent competitions he engages her in for honing his intellect. He also praises Jena, his older neighbour, who he said takes him step by step through difficult lessons she learns in school.

A proud Jena, a first-time scholarship winner who has ambitions of becoming a doctor, told The Gleaner that she is optimistic about the future.

“Shaquille and I are very [determined]. Negative influences affect us, but we have to look on the brighter side of life. We have to continue and get what we want in life to make our parents proud,” said Jena.

Chief executive officer of JN General Insurance, Christopher Hind, told The Gleaner that the awards initiative, implemented 13 years ago, has provided 1,200 scholarships to 500 students, with some of them winning multiple times. These students have come from 50 schools and are mostly from volatile neighbourhoods or communities prone to socio-economic decay. Hind is also a member of the executive committee of the Area Four Police Civic Committee.

“We look for children with high potential, but probably some high degree of vulnerability, to assist them in staying in school so they can achieve all they can. You have to be doing well in school,” he stated.

Acting Commissioner of Police Steve McGregor, who is operations chief for Area Four, said the initiative was geared towards inoculating youth against the infective pull of gang violence. Police intelligence, McGregor said, indicates that young people represent upwards of 90 per cent of murder victims.

“We want to make them less vulnerable to these groups. We have a mentorship programme, which is quite critical because a lot of them have parents who can’t manage them, and a lot of the parents don’t know how to parent these youngsters. The youngsters who got the scholarships will get mentors,” McGregor said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com