Jamaican 24-year-old Jénine Shepherd today earned recognition as the Best Youth Leader of the Year in “Education, Art & Culture” in the 2nd Annual Anthem Awards for her work spearheading the multinational award-winning NGO, Youths For Excellence Limited, that currently serves 7 Caribbean countries and the USA. Shepherd’s NGO, Youths For Excellence, joins other honorees like Lil Nas X, Planned Parenthood, Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation, Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, March for Our Lives, Etsy, Oprah Winfrey Network and so many other powerful game changers. This honour comes hot on the heels of her receiving the Diana Award in 2021 from Princess Diana’s Estate which is the most prestigious award in the world that a young person can receive for social action and humanitarian work as well as the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in the category of Nation Building in 2018. The organization maintained the Prime Minister’s support by being able to host its inaugural Back to School Event there in 2019 and its Founder being interviewed by OPM Now in 2021 after copping the Diana Award. In 2021, she was also listed among the Caribbean 30 Under 30 Changemakers. In 2022, she was recognised by the UK Based NGO, Roy Anthony Reid Foundation, for Outstanding Academic Achievement and Citizenship. Shepherd has been able to balance running her NGO with her academics, as she recently graduated from Amherst College, the top liberal arts college in the USA with her Bachelors in Neuroscience and Economics after being awarded a full scholarship of USD 87,000 each year.
Anthem Winners are selected by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Members include: Nicholas Thompson, CEO, The Atlantic, Christina Swarns, Executive Director, Innocence Project, Zarna Surti, Global Creative Director, Nike Purpose, Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party, Lindsay Stein, Chief Purpose Office, Tombras, Jennifer Lotito, President & Chief Operating Officer, (RED), Lisa Sherman, President & CEO, The Ad Council, Emily Barfoot, Global Brand Director of Dove, Unilever, Trovon Williams, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, NAACP, Roma McCaig, Senior VP of Impact, Clif Bar, Michelle Egan, Chief Strategy Officer, NRDC, Dinah-Kareen Jean, Senior Manager, Social Innovation, Etsy, Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO, GLAAD, Jad Finck, Vice President of Innovation & Sustainability, Allbirds, Christopher Miller, Head of Global Activism Strategy, Ben & Jerry’s, Shayla Tait, Director of Philanthropy at The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation.
Youths For Excellence (YFE) continually serves and provides opportunities for underprivileged children and their families in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the USA. Youths for Excellence, guided by the Founder, Board Co- Chair and President, Jénine Shepherd, ensures that the focus remains on its motto: ‘Changing Nations By Empowering Generations.’ Quality Education is the Sustainable Development Goal at the heart of the non-profit organization and it often takes out of the box approaches to meet its agenda. The organization since its founding in 2015, has provided assistance to over 12,000 children across the region via healthcare, nutrition, educational content and resources while providing skills training and job placement opportunities for their caregivers. YFE maintains its stance that educational inequities need a holistic corrective framework, so supporting young children to succeed academically would mean helping their parents to be better equipped financially.
The organization will be launching its Farm The Future Project this year in the pilot communities of Rose Town and Grants Pen, in Jamaica that will teach disenfranchised Jamaicans between the ages of 15-50, urban agricultural techniques, with a focus on aquaponics, via modern VR technology educational modalities. Trainees will receive job placement opportunities or start up seed capital to launch their own agribusinesses right in their communities. This project has received the support of The Honourable Delroy Chuck, KC., MP., Minister of Justice of Jamaica, and MP for North East St. Andrew and Mark Golding, MP., Leader of the Opposition and MP for St. Andrew South, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Rose Town Foundation, The Diana Award and the British Royal Family, as well as several local and international universities (Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Amherst College and the University of the West Indies). The project will then expand to the rest of the island and the other 6 Caribbean countries with the support of their Agriculture and Education Ministries. YFE put on two symposiums for Grants Pen and Rose Town on November 30 and December 14, 2022 respectively that served as soft launches for the Farm the Future programme. Over 600 Residents were able to attend and learn about the programme, while receiving free healthcare from SERHA & the Edna Manley Health Centre, free legal aid from the Ministry of Justice, birth certificate processing from the Registrar General Department and support from NHT and HEART regarding their housing and continuing education concerns, all under one roof. Children were able to receive food products and play in the bounce-a bouts while their parents handled business. Free cooked lunches were provided to all attendees. Corporate big-wigs like Main Event Entertainment Group, Tru Shake, Seprod, JP St. Mary’s, NCU 91 FM, Cybertronics Copy Shop and Photo Centre, Juss Buss TV and Bryan Photo Studios poured millions of dollars in products and services into the event’s execution. YFE’s brand Ambassador, Teejay “Uptop Boss” were among the performers at the symposium, alongside Grammy-Nominated Artist Kumar Fyah, Yaksta, Carey Sayles, Annaleax and Yungg Muta.
“Since launching this platform in June of 2021, we have seen that social change has emerged as a dominant force in mainstream culture.” said Anthem Awards Managing Director Jessica Lauretti. “The sheer number, breadth and overall quality of the entries shared with us in the 2nd Annual Awards is a testament to the strength of this growing movement and demonstrates an enduring commitment to the work that is both humbling and inspiring to see. From the war in Ukraine, to protests in Iran and the ongoing battle for equality here at home in the States, the call for change not only perseveres but is a growing global chorus.
“I am humbled at this award and what it means for our work. The Anthem Awards has once again put us in the global spotlight. It is my hope that this attention will attract even more supporters for our work and provide us with the platform to advocate for the needs of the Caribbean which oftentimes, is overlooked. NGOs in the Caribbean have so much to offer, but are stifled by the lack of funding, the high levels of bureaucracy that make it difficult to maintain legal status and the poorly developed infrastructure that makes survival difficult. I continue to call for a centralized grant system similar to grants.gov and sam.gov in the USA for the Caribbean that pools public and private sector funding to give NGOS in the region a fighting chance. The fact of the matter is that it takes cash to care and NGOs in the region are dead before they can even begin,” says Anthem Winner and YFE Founder, Jénine Shepherd.
Winners for the 2nd Annual Anthem Awards will be celebrated at the Winners Celebration on February 27 in NYC. Fans will be able to hear from social impact leaders and their hallmark speeches at www.anthemawards.com.
The Anthem Awards was launched in response to the prevalence social good has taken within the national conversation and cultural zeitgeist in recent years. The 2nd Annual competition received nearly 2,000 entries from 43 countries worldwide. By amplifying the voices that spark global change, the Anthem Awards are defining a new benchmark for impactful work that inspires others to take action in their communities. A portion of program revenue will fund a new grant program supporting emerging individuals and organizations working to advance the causes recognized in the 2nd Annual Anthem Awards.
The organization has been featured in Barbados Today, Barbados Advocate, The Morning Brew (Trinidad and Tobago), The Now Morning Show (Trinidad and Tobago), Jamaica Observer, JIS, CVM at Sunrise, Smile Jamaica, Caribbean Life News and so many other national news outlets across the region and in the USA. Jénine is the first person to be interviewed twice by OPM Now, the official show by the Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica where nationals can keep up with government officials and trailblazers. Her organization has collaborated on several multinational projects with multiple Caribbean governments and international organizations like the UNDP, CDB and UNESCO. The most recent solo YFE project was “Math Chattingz” which secured endorsements from the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the UNDP Northern Caribbean Resident Representative and the Ministers of Education in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados and provided educational content to over 5000 Caribbean students in the first staging. The other Caribbean Ministries of Education came on board for the second staging. YFE recently collaborated with the UNDP to put on a Youth Summit on Crime on Violence in Jamaica, the Bahamas, The Turks and Caicos Islands, The Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
Shepherd got her start at Campion College where she obtained 15 distinctions for CSEC, placing 10th in the island for Additional Mathematics and 6 Cape Unit one ones and 6 Cape Unit two ones. In her final year, her team won the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica’s Science Competition in the 16-19 age category by devising a solar water pump that would alleviate the water crisis at her high school and could be integrated into a larger solar circuit to power the school. Her team won 1 million JMD to run the project as a pilot at her school with the intention of spreading the design island-wide.