Some thirty grade nine Charlie Smith High students 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 Friday’s 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. Sterling Asset Management has committed to being an active partner for the next generation of Jamaican students, empowered by a recently awarded USAID grant, through the agency’s Local Partner Development Programme.
“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, to help improve their [personal competency]. We hope that this project will help build a better community for the residents of Trench Town and we are happy that so many of you are here with us,” remarked Valentine.
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.
Golding was buoyed by the increased private sector interest in Trench Town and lauded Sterling Asset Management for considering the many needs of disenfranchised youth. It was especially heartening for the Opposition Leader, who beamed over the untapped human potential of Trench Town’s residents.
“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.
“Sterling Asset Management, I love how you’ve come on board with this project, which, as I understand it, is really a project to help some young people who need the inputs that would round them off in a positive direction and help them cope with life in a constructive way. Anger, frustration, disappointment—all these things are a part of life. It is important that we help those who would otherwise struggle with these things and give them the best possible chance to orient their lives in a positive direction,” added Golding.
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 as well as 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.
“We are sincerely delighted to have everyone here with us today. This programme, Agents for Transformation, is one that is important to the children we serve at Charlie Smith High. It is through stakeholder partnership that, as educators, we will be able to close gaps created by COVID-19 and other deficiencies at the home, school [or] wherever. We are really happy for this partnership where students can get a second chance,” he said of the behavioural modification programme.
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.
Since its inception in 2001, Sterling Asset Management Limited prides itself on a rich tradition of contributing to education and community development in Jamaica. The company spearheads several corporate social responsibility initiatives not limited to high school- and university-level scholarships, as well as support to children’s homes and national sporting events, in partnership with the Government of Jamaica.
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). In alignment with the CBSI’s objectives, LPD’s primary goal is to equip select local actors with the requisite knowledge, skills, and tools that will allow them to implement more effective data-driven secondary and tertiary youth crime prevention programs. LPD’s intention is for the Jamaican organizations it supports to become more effective in advancing collaborative, evidence-based youth crime and violence prevention strategies.