Tuesday, 12 August 2014

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Cherine's ROC initiative advances its mission of transforming lives through education

IN THE FRAME: ROC Jamaica conceptualizer Cherine, with young scholar Tariq Thomas, at Sunday's kids' fest.

"This T-shirt helped to pay a child's tuition." This is the wording you'll find emblazoned on the backs of the blue and white t-shirts being sold by the Reach One Child charity initiative, with all proceeds benefitting the ROC's scholarship and mentorship programme, which on Sunday feted this year's more than 28 scholarship recipients from across the island at an inaugural kids' fest at Keesing Avenue in Kingston.

A fun-filled day-long affair, with concert performances (Chevaughn, Omari), rides, board games and food galore for the children and their adult guardians, the fairly well-supported event had an appealingly cool family vibe with a host of recording artistes and easily recognizable role models (Miss Kitty, Voicemail, Ikaya, Chuck Fener, Charmaine Limonious, to name only a few) passing through as the day progressed and taking to the selctor's mic to "big up" the organizers and voice their endorsement of the day's purpose.

In short, the real significance of the kids' fest (even as the sound system boom boxes blared the latest reggae and pop tunes) couldn't be more palpable: reaching Jamaica's future leaders through education. "It's been really important for me to do this, especially as someone from the innercity of Jamaica. Because really and truly education is the only way out of poverty. It's the only thing that gives you options," explains dancehall soulstress Cherine, whose brainchild led to the birth of Reach One Child, which she launched in 2004. "When you are in the know, you make smarter decisions about your life and your future. And I'm happy that I have this life-changing platform as an artist to do something with substance that can impact the future of the country."

And the ROC has been doing precisely that, if the reports from the awardees are anything to go by. These are high-school bound whiz kids from struggling families who are as book-smar as they are self-assured concerning the kinds of future careers that they want. "Getting the scholarship has made my mother's life much easier because we can afford more things now," says 13-year-old Kayli Hayden, who is heading to Wolmer's Girls in September, and has her mind set on pursuing a career in psychology. "I want to make full use of this opportunity that I've been given."

Startlingly articulate Denham Town native Tariq Thomas (only 12), who has already appeared as a guest on Cliff Hughes' Impact, begs to concur. "It has actually eased a significant financial burden for my family, and I have to thank God for giving me this opportunity. For me education is very important," says the Wolmer's Boys freshman and "future lawyer, lecturer, preacher, a lot of stuff." So what did his stint on Impact do for him? "It gave me a lot of exposure. It also let Jamaica know that there is a lot of good that is still in this country, and let the children know that getting their education is very important. As children we need to let our voice be heard. We need to speak up." 

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