It always amazes me how determined we are to be successful in the midst of darkness and turmoil. Throughout the 14 parishes, you can find stories of youths daring to defy poverty, hardship or health-related issues. This was the foundation on which the first set of stories in the Above It All series were told.
It evoked compassion, insight and sympathy, as the stories of teens’ journeys were unfiltered and genuine. For one of the stories, Lady Allen was so moved that she invited the interviewee to King’s House for a chat. She also provided financial assistance for the former state ward to ensure that he finishes his studies at his community college.
To cap things off, the series won two awards at the prestigious Press Association of Jamaica awards ceremony. This is an event which is attended by journalists and the work of entrants is judged by journalists. It was a fulfilling experience, but what was more rewarding was seeing the impact it had on the readers and fellow journalists.
OUR TEENS REFUSE TO GIVE UP
As adults, there are times when we overlook the struggles many of our teens are facing and how determined they are not to be defined by them. Since their stories have been published, I still keep in contact with most persons to ensure they stay motivated. For some, life is still as challenging as the day we first met, but the mental resolve of all of them has remained the same.
This time around, I wanted to continue to represent teens from the various parishes. This saw me driving to places such as Albert Town, Trelawny, and Beeston Spring in northern Westmoreland. As Kingstonians, sometimes we spend too much time covering stories in our proximity and neglect the wonderful work taking place across the island. However, Above It All is giving a voice to all the determined youths of Jamaica who refuse to yield to defeat.
Surprisingly, I started out with nine stories and ended up with six, as some of the issues were too emotionally draining for the interviewees and they had to cancel. This also highlighted the mental toll that many teens are paying as they experience life’s challenges. Some can blot it out and keep on moving, but the psychological chains have held many captive, even in the midst of academic success.
For this reason, my heart always goes out to all the caregivers, community members and educators who volunteer to assist these teens where necessary. There was one case where I was doing an interview and several community members were present to strengthen the young girl with encouragement while she was telling her story. This reinforced the adage, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Our teens need the support of their communities.