The Cayman Islands Youth Development Consortium, together with Clifton Hunter High School, recently hosted the Planning for Youth Success Conference and the first-ever virtual Celebrate Our Youth Day.

About 100 Clifton Hunter students, along with some of the school’s faculty, attended the event, held as part of Support Our Youth Month, which takes place every January.

This year’s conference, held 29 Jan., focussed on resiliency, which was a “timely” theme, the consortium said in a press release, adding, “[W]e have all experienced a pandemic that has affected all of our lives.”

In a welcome address, Youth Development Consortium chair Michael Wilks said that young people’s “ability to bounce back is a result of their internal qualities that stem from their confidence, passion and purpose and external supports from people and institutions in their lives”.

Wilks added, “The more of these internal and external assets they have, the more likely they are to succeed and bounce back from life challenges.”

Clifton Hunter student Chloe Reid holds the poster she created during Celebrate Our Youth Day. – Photo: Submitted

Guest speaker, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee, who addressed the young people via Zoom, talked about his life growing up and his experience in his current role.

“He encouraged the students to use all the different aspects of their lives to grow, including turning to family and friends for support during times of great difficulty,” according to the press release.

Attorney Claudine Bailey, a legal officer in Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in her keynote address, also via Zoom, spoke of being in foster care as a child. She encouraged young people to bounce back from adversity, challenging them to choose climbing higher rather than sinking lower, the release stated.

Facilitated by Silvia Wilks, CIYDC founder and programme coordinator, the young people rated their developmental assets and discussed how working on these could help them succeed, according to the release.

The virtual event also featured various ways schools develop young people’s assets. The students worked on posters to highlight the importance of promoting the internal and external assets needed in their communities.

Richard Wildman, Clifton Hunter principal, said the conference marked “a significant step in engagement with external assets capable of helping our youth confront challenges, define issues and develop strategies for action. It is our hope that this pilot serves as a model for other schools to further engage in wider youth empowerment.”

The event was sponsored by the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands, and the United Against Bullying Foundation. The Health Services Authority and the Wellness Centre donated items for the student conference packs.

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