Mrs. Tweed-Bell addressing students. SKNIS Photo

The Second Annual National Consultation on Youth, held Friday at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, has been hailed as a success by participants who said it provided direct access to policymakers, gave insight on key government initiatives and inspired youth to find and pursue their passion.

Hundreds of participants from high schools, youth organizations, entrepreneurs and other interested individuals attended the event.

The first part of the forum featured a panel discussion with Tishon Thomas, the Co-founder and Managing Director of SKN IT Solutions as well as Neisha Tweed-Bell, a Creative Strategist and People Manager at Facebook — two young professionals from St. Kitts and Nevis.

The second half of the forum — the ‘Ask a Minister’ segment — featured questions and answers directed to Cabinet members. The panel was headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Youth, Honourable Shawn Richards, and included Senior Minister, Honourable Vance Amory, Attorney General, Honourable Vincent Byron Jr., Ministers Honourable Eugene Hamilton, Lindsay Grant, and Wendy Phipps. Ambassador H.E. Jonel Powell also participated in the panel, which was moderated by Deputy Speaker and Senator, Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett.

Brandon Powell, invited to attend the event by the Department of Youth and Sports in Nevis, noted the event was “extremely educational” and gave good insight into the government’s thrust to further develop information technology.He added the messages of aggressively pursuing professional development and having a healthy ambition resonated with him.

Abigail O’Flaherty, a Fifth Form student at the Charles E. Mills Secondary School, said she appreciated the engagement with the ministers of government, noting that the session was “very informative.”

Azard Gumbs, a key member of the organizing committee and chair of last year’s inaugural National Consultation on Youth, noted that the introduction of the discussion with the young professionals — Thomas and Tweed-Bell — was a noteworthy addition. He added that the event was very successful, and he is looking forward to continuing the interactive forum between the country’s leadership and its young people.

Young Professionals Inspire with Stories of Success

Mr. Thomas shared his experience growing up at the St. Christopher Children’s Home between the ages of 6-16 years, noting that it allowed him to discover a love for computers, gave him the perspective to appreciate the challenges in life and the motivation to solve problems.

Mrs. Tweed-Bell, Creative Strategist and People Manager at Facebook, appeared via video link.Both panellists were able to engage with the persons in attendance which included high school students, representatives of youth organizations, young entrepreneurs and other interested individuals.

Mr. Thomas advised persons to first get to know themselves, find what they are passionate about and to chart a pathway taking one step at a time. Mrs. Tweed-Bell agreed, noting key ingredients of success included setting goals, building meaningful relationships, giving positive energy, and being confident but not arrogant.

Questions from the audience included what employers are looking for in prospective employees, striking a balance between family and work obligations, developing positive attitudes, dismissing ‘haters’, and employing problem-solving techniques to challenges.

“I don’t really have a plan as yet in terms of what I want to do [as a career] but this presentation really helped me to sit down and to begin to think about what I really want to do,” Lebron Senior, a Fourth Form student of the Gingerland Secondary School, said, adding the presentations were “very inspirational.”.

A big takeaway for the young man was to implement problem-solving to issues that may arise rather than sitting down and pouting.

Mr. Thomas said that he was pleased with the forum.

“The experience was very good. I found that the audience was very engaging, the young people were actually interested in what to do to become successful, how to be better in terms of attitude, and career goals,” he said. “My takeaway from this session is that our future is very bright, our young people are not lost, our young people are more focused than we think, and this … affirms that there are a lot of positive young people.”

Deputy PM Encourages Young Persons to Seize Advantages of their Adolescence Years

Deputy Prime Minister Richards, encouraged the over 200 young persons who attended to seize the advantages of their adolescence years to get a firm foundation and advised them to focus on their education.

“You are having the easiest time of your life. You are getting a free education; your parents still have the responsibility for you, and your teachers are trying their very best. Take advantage of the education that you are now receiving,” he said. “All of the other things in life that you would like to have, once you take advantage of that education, you will be able to achieve all of those other things. Essentially, at this point in life concentrate on your education. Everything else will come after.”

Minister Richards also encouraged non-students to make the best of every opportunity.

“To those of you who are not students, of course, you are going to have various experiences in life. You are going to have various opportunities in life, take advantage of all of them,” he said.

He noted life may not always greet them with their expectations, but encouraged them to never give up.

“The experiences at the end of the day, hopefully, they will lead you to that place in life where you want to be and you will be able to say thank God, I have been able to have this particular experience,” he said.

The National Consultation on Youth is an interactive forum designed to promote direct dialogue between policymakers and the nation’s youth, to update on government policies, solicit feedback and express the hopes and dreams of the youth.