By Theresa Goodwin
The Department of Youth Affairs (DYA) has teamed up with officers from the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda to launch a Big Brothers, Big Sisters Mentorship Programme that will be specifically geared at secondary school in the first instance.
The programme was launched on January 27th with a training workshop hosted at the Department of the Environment.
The sensitisation and training session was conducted by counselling psychologist and founder of Guiding Lanes, Alaina Gomes.
Gomes will also be monitoring 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.
Senior Programme Officer in the Youth Affairs Department Sophia Zachariah said the initiative will benefit all parties that are involved.
“The Department of Youth Affairs is happy to be involved in this initiative which will have a positive impact on both the life of mentors/mentees. A programme of this nature will build students self-esteem and can also lead to improved academic performance even beyond the lifespan of the programme,” Zachariah said.
Senior Education Officer Denise Mills also stated the programme will benefit students holistically and lauds the partnership between the Youth Ambassadors, at the department that are overseeing the programme, and police.
“We recognise that a programme of this nature is an environment 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 relationship between mentor and mentee. This in its self will propel them into being outstanding contributors to society. We at the Ministry of Education believe in partnership and collaborating with the Youth Ambassadors, the Police Force and the Pilot schools, is a partnership that should make a difference,” Mills said.
A total of 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 Clare Hall Secondary School.
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, it will expand into more secondary schools.