Growing up in rural Jamaica, Mishca Ann Shakespear* was a very active child who preferred to play with plants rather than her peer. However when she was seven years old, her relationship with her mother became toxic and she had to live with her father. “She didn’t like me and she made me know it. Something as simple as a hug, she would push me away. I was so angry at her, because i wanted us to a regular mother-daughter relationship, but it was clear this was never going to happen,” revealed Shakespear.
This social shift planted a seed of disruption that showed no visible signs in her behavioural pattern while she attended primary school. Fortunately for her during these years, she was always given attention by her female teachers, who would encourage and guide her. “I was always a top 5 student in every grade level in primary school and my teachers were very loving towards me. They would always ask me to do things and keep me involved in all class activities,” shared Shakespear.
As she moved on to high school, the stark reality of a new environment where she was no longer being pampered jolted Shakespear, who confessed that the initial social adjustment was challenging. “Everything was so new to me plus i wasn’t getting the attention i was accustomed to in primary school, which made things even more difficult.”
Adjusting to High School
Even though she had some challenges settling in, Shakespear still managed to achieve respectable grades in first form while staying out of trouble.
However by the time she entered third form, she was trying to achieve attention in every way possible. Psychologically there was a void created by her estranged relationship with her mother and Shakespear was determined to fill it. “I started getting into a lot of trouble especially with teachers. I always had a rude response whenever they were talking to me. I used every chance to show them attitude,” reminisced Shakespear.
Her behavior towards her peers was even worse, as she would use every opportunity to berate them. “At the time i would always find things to say that i know would hurt them, especially if i could make them cry. Sometimes i would fass in their home through gossip to see if there was anything embarrassing, then i share it with the rest of the class.” stated Shakespear.
A now contrite Shakespear stated that she would stop at no cost to make others feel unhappy. “I remember one of my female classmates was recorded in a promiscuous sexual act and i played a major role in sharing the entire thing with my form mates. In the end the girl was in tears.”
All these miscreant behaviours led to two suspensions, countless warning letters and a weekly session with the guidance counselor. However nothing could abate her new attitude, until her final semester in third form. “I was doing an exam and i was finished but the invigilator did not want to let me out, so i tore up the paper in front of him and walked out without his permission,”
This caught the attention of her guidance counselor, who was close by. Consequently she was then sent to the vice principal’s office where it was recommended that she be a part of IPAD 4 Life Youth Empowerment and Mentorship Camp, a two-week summer camp undertaken by members of the JCF.
“At first i thought it was a booth camp so i was very doubtful, but the facilitators were so positive. Especially Sergeant Scott-Mcgibbon, she spent a lot of time talking to me and mentoring me,” stated Shakespear.
The camp, held at Iona High, St. Ann, hosted over 70 at risk student and taught them self improvement courses as well as exposing them to pep talks from different professionals. “In the mornings we had to make up our beds and tidy our areas. Then we would have a doctor or lawyer come and talk to us about staying on the right path.”
Eventually Shakespear welcomed this intervention and started to blossom under the guidance of the facilitators. “They would give me different challenges to do and realised that i was very responsible. At the end of the camp i was awarded most improved female,” she declared
Now a fourth-form student, she was selected to be a school prefect and an ambassador for the program. “When i came back to school i apologised to a lot of persons, especially the teachers and the female whose video i helped circulate. I was feeling a lot of pain and went about expressing myself the wrong way. But as i told one of my teachers, this is a different year for me and i am going to prove to everyone how much i have changed.”
She admits that not everyone is convinced she is reformed, but she is intent on proving them wrong. “Based on some of the things i have done, i know some persons have their doubts and i can’t wrong them. It is a process that is going to take time, but in the end they will see how much i have changed.”
Launched in 2015 by conceptualizer Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant, IPAD 4 Life has positively impacted over 14,000 young people in Westmoreland, St. Ann, Clarendon and St. Catherine.
“She didn’t like me and she made me know it. Something as simple as a hug, she would push me away. I was so angry at her, because i wanted us to a regular mother-daughter relationship, but it was clear this was never going to happen”
“I was doing an exam and i was finished but the invigilator did not want to let me out, so i tore up the paper in front of him and walked out without his permission,”
Above it All, highlights youth who have found a way to persevere despite experiencing extenuating circumstances.