By Antonette Dennis | President of National Secondary Students Council and Shash Youth Ambassador
September 26, 2017
I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t dedicate my effort and service to the betterment of others. Most of my years in primary education were spent being an active volunteer through the Red Cross and Girls’ Guide. However, when I started attending Bishop Gibson High School for Girls and became a student councilor it was as if my entire world had become whole. The Council was my cradle. It gave me an avenue through which I could passionately advocate for positive change where necessary in the school environment, and to speak on behalf of those who didn’t have the opportunity/courage to do so for themselves. The council also aided in rekindling the spirit of volunteerism among the school population; we often embarked on clean-up projects, donations to children’s homes and helping our fellow schoolmates with academics whenever necessary. It further served as a means to develop my interpersonal skills while expanding my network.
In 2013, I was introduced to the National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC), which is the umbrella organization for all local students’ councils across Jamaica. From then, I watched Boswell, Young, Rattray and Watson serve in the capacity of President. Although I served on the regional body, first as a co-opt then Assistant Vice President in 2015 and Vice president in 2016, never had I imagined that one day I would be tasked with the responsibility to lead and represent over 300,000 students across Jamaica.
The election process was intense, and persons often said, “don’t you feel pressured being the only female candidate for presidency”, “I doubt you’ll win” etc., but despite this I still persevered. Thankfully, I had a great support system, which consisted of my mentors, close friends and family. On April 30th, we had our final debates and before the end of the day I found out I was the one elected to serve in capacity of President of the NSSC for 2017-18. I was genuinely shocked but proud because all the hard work that was put in while balancing academics had paid off.
The transition process has been going well, especially with the help of Alnastazia, who I know I can call for information whenever or just for advice. Overall, it’s pretty much been like an endless rollercoaster ride since election day, with many ups and some downs, along with countless negative criticism. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to participate in various radio interviews on students’ right and youth issues as well as functions such as the Caribbean 2030 Conference on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I’m the only President that has served the Council for 4 consecutive years and have no doubt that the team will do well in providing wholesome representation to Jamaica’s secondary students.
A week prior to the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year, we had a week-long workshop for the executive, to fully equip them to serve. Our days began at 6 AM and ended at 11 PM; most nights we engaged in sessions on public speaking, meeting management, advocacy, position papers and more. The workshop ended with a session with Minister Floyd Green (Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information), where we briefly discussed the plans for this academic year.
The year began on a high note, as members of the executive have been assisting with local council elections and doing visits to schools to foster a more cohesive relationship amongst students and the Council. International Peace Day was commemorated with a Peace Day March in Region 4 and an Island-wide Peace Day Challenge, where persons submitted pictures and videos that promoted peace.
I highly anticipate all that will be accomplished as the year progresses.
Antonette is the President of the National Secondary Students’ Council of Jamaica, student at the Bishop Gibson High School for Girls and Shashamane Sunrise Youth Ambassador.