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.