This fall, Jénine Shepherd, Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Nation Building Recipient, from Jamaica has been selected to represent Youths For Excellence Limited for the inaugural YOUNGA™Forum. Organized by BridgingTheGap Ventures, this first-of-its-kind virtual global youth takeover of the United Nations is focused on a central theme for 2020—the future youth want, the action we need.
Using VR and XR technologies, YOUNGA will connect 1,500 Youth Delegates with top-level decision-makers and influencers to co-create solutions to global challenges like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Speakers include senior leaders from the World Health Organization, UN Foundation, UNAIDS, The World Bank Group, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and a variety of celebrity mentors (see full line-up)
“Jamaica does not exist in a vacuum. Discussions by youth across the globe with key decision-makers are crucial for us to accomplish Vision 2030 for our island. This is what YOUNGA provides” states Jénine Shepherd. “For the past 5 years I have been working tirelessly to eradicate education inequality across the Caribbean region. It pains my heart to see the inequity that exists. The time for discussion and action is now.”
Jénine is the Executive Director of Youths For Excellence Limited, a non-profit organization she founded at 17 that caters to inner-city children in Jamaica by providing them with food, school supplies, tutoring, and healthcare via the aid of 24 corporate and government sponsors: JUTC, KFC, Grace Kennedy Limited and Digicel among them. The organization also provides families of the children with opportunities for career and personal development. So far they have provided close to 800 children with holistic education support. Jénine has been brought in by CARICOM, the Institute of Caribbean Studies, and the Caribbean Development Foresight Institute to host and organise discussions with the United Nations Development Programme, UNESCO, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Organisation of American States around policies in education, healthcare, and economic development post-COVID-19 for the Caribbean region. She was also recently appointed President of the Jamaican American Youth Alliance, a New York-based 501(c) (3) that supports Jamaicans in the USA with the endorsements of the US and Jamaican governments to provide networking and mentorship opportunities as well as a platform for advocacy on issues affecting diaspora members. JAYA recently partnered with the American Friends of Jamaica to host a virtual benefit concert in Europe, co-hosted by DJ Khaled and Busta Rhymes, in aid of the COVID-19 relief effort in Jamaica, in addition to the Embassy of Jamaica in Brussels and European diaspora groups to raise funds and organize repatriation flights in aid of Jamaicans stranded in France due to COVID-19. At 21, she served as part of the core team that drafted the policy for the Global Jamaica Diaspora Youth Council by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign trade. Through this proposal, she ensures that 3.5 million Jamaicans residing in the USA, UK and Canada are heard on issues of cultural estrangement, how they can get involved in policymaking, and how they can contribute to businesses, education, national security, and other matters relating to restoring confidence in Jamaica for Vision 2030.
YOUNGA Youth Delegates have the important role to represent the voice of young people—along with their region—in key dialogues and interactive sessions. They receive access to a free, bespoke four-week program throughout October including 36 hours of top-notch leadership and advocacy training, along with curated career advancement and networking opportunities. Programming focuses on five thematic tracks that align with youth priorities and UN75 topics: Climate Action and Sustainable Living, Equality and Inclusion, Future of Education and Work, Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Peace and Justice.
One October 24, the hopes, concerns, and ideas of young people for the future identified by Youth Delegates will be presented to world leaders through the 2020 YOUNGA online broadcast and a world-first virtual reality event alongside the commemoration of 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
YOUNGA was conceptualized upon the belief that the passion, experience, and perspectives young people like Jénine Shepherd bring to discussions about global problems proves they are not only the leaders of tomorrow but also the leaders of today. To learn more about how the Forum provides young people with an accessible and inclusive platform to voice their ideas concerning the action needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda, visit youngaforum.com
Join the global conversation on social media by following #YOUNGA2020and @wearebridgingthegap(Instagram) and @btg_ventures (Twitter).