The Department of Youth Affairs (DYA) is teaming up with law enforcement officers in the “Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda” mentorship programme.
National Youth Ambassadors are overseeing the initiative, which commenced with an in-depth sensitization and training session on January 27 at the Department of Environment. In attendance were representatives from the DYA, police force, and ministry of education.
The sensitization and training session was conducted by counselling psychologist and founder of Guiding Lanes Alaina Gomes. Gomes will also monitor the progress of the mentor-mentee relationships throughout the programme to ensure that the officers are well equipped with the vital skills needed for successful mentoring.
A total of twenty (20) police officers are among the first set of mentors who will offer guidance, friendship, and leadership training to secondary school participants from the Antigua Girls High School, Sir Novelle Richards Academy, Antigua Grammar School, Princess Margaret School, and the Clare Hall Secondary School.
Senior Programme Officer in the Department of Youth Affairs Sophia Zachariah says there are benefits for all parties.
“The Department of Youth Affairs is happy to be involved in this initiative which will have a positive impact on the lives of both mentors and mentees. A programme this nature will build students’ self esteem and can also lead to improved academic performance even beyond the lifespan of the mentoring programme. We are so proud that our youth ambassadors are playing an important role, and we are also thankful to the police force for giving them the opportunity”.
Programme manager Lyle Jackson, who is also a member of the National Youth Ambassador’s Corps, explains that the programme is supported by experienced men and women within the police force and seeks to rebuild rapport and trust among the youth, the police force, and wider society.”
Along with the mentoring element, Jackson noted, “the project will offer a series of added professional development training to students, as well as officers. As the programme progresses, the project will expand into more secondary schools.”
Meantime, Senior Education Officer Denise Mills says the programme will benefit students holistically and lauds the partnership between the youth ambassadors and police.
“We recognized that a mentorship programme of this nature is an avenue for students, whether at risk or not to be positively influenced by mentors with outstanding qualities; who have been carefully selected as role models for the students embarking on the programme. We also envision the students finding a support system that builds positive relationships between mentor and mentee, also fosters character building, the achievement of goals and the determination to rise above the challenges encountered on life’s journey. This in itself will propel them to be outstanding contributors to society. We at the Ministry of Education believe in partnership, and collaborating with the youth ambassadors of Antigua and Barbuda, the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, along with the 4 pilot schools, students and their parents is a partnership that should make a difference once the plans are successfully implemented and monitored. We look forward to a successful mentorship programme and congratulate all who have been instrumental in making this initiative a reality”, Mills stated.
The programme’s managing team also includes other National Youth Ambassadors, such as Guishonne Powell – with responsibility for the Ministry of National Security, Public Safety & Labor, Julien Kentish – with responsibility for the Ministry of Health, Head of Youth Intervention Unit within the Royal Police force of Antigua & Barbuda Inspector Claudina Morgan, and Senior Education Officer within the Ministry of Education, Denise Mills.