At 10 years old, Robino Mitchell could not read or write. However, after attending remedial classes for academic and behavioural challenges over eight months, he was able to write and deliver the Valedictorian speech for the 2018 graduation of the Joy Town Community Development Foundation’s Taking Charge of Your Future (TCYF) Programme last month.
The programme, which in its fourth year, continues to offer a second chance to youngsters seven to 15 years old in Trench Town and neighbouring communities who need to overcome behavioural issues and learning challenges.
“I came to Taking Charge of Your Future in October 2017. Before I came I was unable to read. In class I would pretend to be reading and I spent most of my time giving trouble,” said Robino, who lives in Trench Town.
“When I heard that I was coming to Joy Town I cried, because I did not want to come. After being at Joy Town for a while I realised that I was able to call a few words and that made me feel good about myself. I said to myself, with a little more effort I should be able to read. And look at me now! A proud product of Joy Town Community Development Foundation,” Robino said in his Valedictorian speech to rousing applause from his classmates, teachers, and representatives of Joy Town Community Development Foundation.
The ceremony was held at Joy Town Covenant Community Church in Trench Town.
There was one girl in the 2018 class of 21, all of whom were referred to the Joy Town programme through a collaboration with schools in the area.
The Taking Charge of Your Future initiative, based on the Ministry of Education’s curriculum, was developed and is refined each year by a team of academics and professionals under the guidance of Joy Town Community Development Foundation.
“We knew Robino was special. When he came into the programme he was not able to read, like many of the other participants, but he improved rapidly,” said Camille Johnson, programme co-ordinator at Joy Town Community Development Foundation.
“Because it is a remedial programme, we do not focus on grades, although the benchmark for work is 60 per cent. He became the top reader in his group and set an example as a well-mannered, well-behaved young man,” she continued.
“The students learn to overcome fear of failure and rejection as they experience God’s love in an atmosphere of unconditional love. They learn that they are specially made by God with a purpose and that with His help they are able to achieve their destiny, no matter the difficulties, or the temporary disappointments,” said Major Richard Cooke, president of the Joy Town Community Development Foundation.
“We are pleased with the changes that have taken place among the young people who have been served by TCYF over the past four years and we look forward to making a difference in the lives of many more Jamaican youth from the community in the future. The school drop-out rate among boys in our society remains of great concern to us, and we pledge to do our part to change that narrative,” he continued.
A number of the young programme participants were rewarded for maintaining improved behaviour with gifts from TCYF volunteer Rev Herro Blair Jr. The gifts included a tablet, an android smart watch, and a leather wallet.