Youth parliamentarian remembers Nicholas Francis; still stands up for youth

My memory of Nicholas Francis – of a boy who was quiet and reserved, yet so energetically ambitious – sparks my enthusiasm as a youth advocate. I strongly believe youth have a right to stand up against bullies, just as how our national heroes fought for our rights to do so! For too long youth issues have been forgotten and washed away like tears in the rain.

Nicholas Francis stood up for his rights to his property, he stood his ground and he was a hero in my eyes! Who knew that the Ignacio Volunteers, a group of which I’m a member, would have gotten the opportunity to meet such a brave youth as Nicholas Francis.

Ignacio Volunteers are a group of St. George’s College past and present students who organize and lead multiple retreats, camps and other gatherings guided by the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola “to be men and women for others”. We provide the forum for youth to give their views on societal issues and expectations and the volunteers guide them on how to negotiate them.

Nicholas Francis stood up for his rights to his property, he stood his ground and he was a hero in my eyes!

We often hear our Jamaican peers speak of how hard it is to grow up in an economy that favours the wealthy and forgets the poor, which it is! However, in becoming a teenager, I had a personal goal to reach out to the youth population who felt voiceless. But to get there I had to get over my shyness to address certain uncomfortable issues like bullying and discrimination.

I had to put words into action by energizing the mass of youth through creativity, by organizing and participating in youth camps, workshops, social groups and retreats like the community event in which Nicholas Francis participated. These kind of events are crucial to hear directly from the youth and harness our energies.

I’m achieving this movement through the hard work of my Ignacio Volunteers and National Youth Parliamentarians of Jamaica. Yes, this kind of work may take time, and others might doubt why I am so committed, but like Wendy Lesko said: “If you ever think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito!”

like Wendy Lesko said: “If you ever think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito!”

In doing this for over half a decade, the biggest obstacle to mobilizing youth remains our individual and collective lack of self-worth. And we simply do not believe that our decisions and our actions can determine our outcomes.

We have to get to the root of why so many youths are turning to crime and violence, or to suicide and murder – is it that we have not done enough to ensure their rights and protection? Do we need to do more to help entities like the Office of the Children’s Advocate to reach out more in securing our children’s rights and best interests?

It will take effort, some of it fruitless, and it will take my time which I could spend otherwise spend on myself. But to do nothing, to say that youth cannot be empowered or encouraged to determine their own future – that I do not have time for.

Matthew Morris is a member of Ignacio Volunteers and the recently reopened Jamaican Youth Parliament.

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