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Jamaica Gleaner - - FAMILY & RELIGION - Ce­celia Liv­ingston-Camp­bell Gleaner Writer fam­ilyan­dreli­gion@glean­erjm.com

OORDINATOR OF op­er­a­tions at the Ver­salles Ho­tel Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme, which com­bines the Mid­dle­sex In­ter­na­tional Col­lege and the HEART/NTA pro­gramme, An­to­nio James is all about chang­ing lives. He will be the first to tell you that he did not grow up in ad­verse con­di­tions while at Glen­muir High School, but he kept his finger on the pulse of life’s re­al­i­ties through his friend­ships with those who lived in war-torn com­mu­ni­ties in Claren­don such as Farm, Ef­fortville, Buc­knor, and other ar­eas. “Their re­al­i­ties were not mine, but I al­ways knew what was hap­pen­ing with them, and it was that rea­son which proved to be a mo­ti­va­tion to me to help in what­ever way I can,” he said. Prais­ing his fam­ily for pro­vid­ing a cush­ion for him so that he could ful­fil his pur­pose, he said it is his de­sire now to be that cush­ion for young at-risk boys. “I want them to ful­fil their dreams – be what they can be,” said James, who has spon­sored five boys from the Far­mEf­fortville area in the HEART pro­gramme at the ho­tel who are now pur­su­ing com­mer­cial food­prepa­ra­tion cour­ses. “Ba­si­cally, all their needs have been taken care of in the pro­gramme. All they have to do is just turn up at classes,” said James.

REA­SON FOR HELP­ING

Com­ment­ing on what led him to reach out in this way, he said it was their close friend­ship and the fact that they each seemed to share the same dreams: all want­ing to get be­yond their cir­cum­stances.

“When I in­tro­duced the pro­gramme to them, they were just beam­ing with pos­i­tiv­ity. That’s a rare oc­cur­rence in such a closely knit group of young men want­ing to make some­thing of them­selves,” shared James on the sat­is­fac­tion he felt hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to make a dif­fer­ence in some­one else’s lives.

“I just want to give back and en­sure that the youth, at all times, are able to achieve and they are not held back be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­straints,” said James. James: I just want to give back and en­sure that the youth, at all times, are able to achieve and they are not held back be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­straints.

In his ‘big brother’ role, James said he hopes to see the five young men go­ing all the way af­ter the pro­gramme ends.

“They have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in work­ing not just here (at the ho­tel), but on a ship or even on the ho­tel cir­cuit. If they want to fur­ther their stud­ies at a higher level, even at that point, I would see what I can do to as­sist,” shared James.

James said that al­though he has started with the five young men, he in­tends to reach out to oth­ers.

“I have seen where a lot of young peo­ple leave school, and for the first cou­ple months, they try to get jobs, but the longer they are un­suc­cess­ful, they be­come frus­trated, and some end up in the wrong com­pany or some of the young girls end up preg­nant, mak­ing their con­di­tions worse,” said James.

For James, it is his way of en­sur­ing that there are five less at-risk youth in so­ci­ety.

He also used the op­por­tu­nity to reach out to oth­ers so that they, too, can be big brothers, fa­thers, or mother fig­ures to oth­ers who need help.

“If you can help, do so. It does not take a lot. Grow­ing up, there were so many of my class­mates who had the po­ten­tial to do great things, but they just didn’t have the re­sources,” he said, adding that his ef­forts are pow­ered now by what he was un­able to do then.

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