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Petrocaribe Development Fund Celebrates Youth in a Tangible Way

Article, Press Releases — November 06, 2014

One of the overarching objectives of the PetroCaribe Development Fund (PDF) is supporting the development of human capital.  As Jamaica celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, the PDF launched a scholarship programme aimed at supporting the education of students at the secondary and tertiary levels.  The scholarships were awarded based on academic merit and financial need and is supported by a grant of J$209 million (US$2.33 million) from the PetroCaribe Development Fund, which provides funding for courses of study to a maximum of seven years for the high-school students, and a maximum of five years for university students. The objective of the scholarship programme is to develop outstanding scholars and exemplary leaders who will contribute to Jamaica’s future sustainable development.

In continuation of this support to Jamaica’s youth, the PDF embarked on a summer programme in 2013 geared at providing employment for 5th form students up to 3rd year tertiary level students. The purpose of the programme is to offer them a first- job experience and exposure to various career industries. Students are given the opportunity to work between four and six weeks during the summer months. However, although this programme is short-term, the Fund’s goal is to introduce the youth to employers who will positively impact their futures.

Emerging from a desire to unearth ideas on how to improve the effectiveness of these programmes as well as to celebrate the successes of the recipients, PDF CEO, Dr. Wesley Hughes paved the way for the hosting of a Youth Forum under the theme “Celebrating Our Youth”.  On August 28, 2014, the PDF hosted over 70 beneficiaries at The Knutsford Court Hotel, comprising recipients and interns who benefited from the PDF Scholarship and Summer Employment Programmes.

At the joint forum, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, education minister, spoke positively of the PDF initiatives and charged the students to make good use of the assistance “With such an investment, you must add value to the process and integrity of education,” he stated. He also encouraged the youth in attendance to choose careers which will be relevant to the 21st-century job market. Regarding the PDF Summer employment Programme, the education minister described the programme as a “wonderful idea,” as it served as a period of apprenticeship for students and would complement what is taught in the classroom.

One of the guest speakers, Mrs. Yaneek Page, Female Business Leader 2013 and CEO of Future Services International, shared significant insights on entrepreneurship and developing good business acumen. Motivational speaker and 2014 Rhodes Scholar, Timar Jackson also gave an inspiring presentation outlining his own challenging journey from poverty to success.

Romaine Clarke, participant in the PDF summer employment expressed his profound appreciation regarding the programme, “The experience was awesome. I wish every youth would get the opportunity that I had received. I was given a key to unlock my personal door to success,” he said. This past student of Wolmer’s Boys School is set on becoming a criminal psychologist.

Kamar Marriott, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences, with a major in nursing, also expressed a similar sentiment, “It was a tremendous experience, because it has opened many doors of opportunity and given me experience in the world of work. This experience has given me the capacity to continue to lead and set examples for others to follow,” she said.

Outstanding GSAT students, Tatyana Palmer, Jermaine Spencer, and Taisha James unanimously expressed appreciation for the Fund’s investment in their development which relieved their financial and mental burdens regarding secondary schools costs.

The tertiary scholarship recipients were equally upbeat, as they highlighted the significance of the financial support from the PDF. Shanti Persaud, environmental officer at the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), has a first degree in geology, and a second degree in Environmental Management and Planning. With the PDF scholarship, she was able to underwrite the cost of her master’s degree, thus allowing her to be more equipped, academically and professionally, to make a significant impact on Jamaica’s environmental programme.

Similarly, Olivia Rose, the first appointed sports psychologist at the UWI is now pursuing doctoral studies at the United Kingdom’s University of Leicester, as a distance – learning student, through the financial assistance from the PetroCaribe Development Fund.

Dr. Wesley Hughes, CEO, spoke highly of the impact the programmes were making in the lives of young Jamaicans and feels confident that the benefits of this investment will be felt in social and national development. “The financial costs are nothing compared to the potential reward to Jamaica from the graduates who will stay, work, and make Jamaica the place of choice for their future“, he said.

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