REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
AT THE LAUNCH OF THE NATIONAL YOUTH POLICY AND
VIRGIN ISLANDS EMERGING FELLOW AWARD
MARIA’S BY THE SEA HOTEL
MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015
- Minister for Education and Culture, Honourable Myron V. Walwyn
- Members of the House of Assembly
- Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Marcia Potter
- Senior Public Officers
- Recipients of the Emerging Fellow Award
- Youth Leaders
- Members of the media
Today we are here to officially launch the Virgin Islands National Youth Policy, and recognise the 2015 recipients of the Virgin Islands Emerging Fellow Award.
Indeed, youth development is at the top of my Government’s agenda.
We are driven by the reality that if we want this Territory to be sustainable or long-lived, we must build the bridges now.
And, this is important because if we do not help to shape the Virgin Islands we want to see tomorrow, chances are the foundations that we are laying today would be in vain.
There is an old saying by our forebears: you must bend a tree while it is young; you must orient its course from now, because if you start tomorrow, the timing will too late.
It is for this reason—an old valuable lesson learned—that we are all here.
I applaud the Minister for Education and Culture, Honourable Myron V. Walwyn for taking up the mantle for excellence in youth development to ensure that we raise our bar and keep raising it. In many ways, I am seeing diverse initiatives to prepare our youth for the next steps in life!
I also commend the team at the Ministry and members of the National Youth Committee for their dedicated efforts on this longstanding project.
My Government is ensuring that we put in place the right programmes, the right activities, the right learning opportunities, and the right training whether in academics, social, sports or culture—all geared towards empowering our youth.
And this is what today represents, a continued commitment to youth development work.
I am pleased that we are moving forward with launching the National Youth Policy. This policy has been a priority of my Government’s agenda. It reflects our determination to give our youth a solid foundation on which they can grow as individuals, and as responsible citizens of the Territory and the World.
I am pleased that in giving our youth a voice, the National Youth Policy includes the creation of the Virgin Islands Youth Commission, the National Youth Council and the National Youth Parliament.
We envision that through these three bodies, the Territory’s next generation of leaders and parliamentarians will be trained on the guiding principles of democracy, good governance, advocacy, human rights and the law.
I know that islands like Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica and Grenada for example have already adopted their youth policies. Far afield, countries like Australia, and in the African region including Kenya and Zimbabwe, to name a few, have youth policies as well.
A Territory such as ours, that plays a significant role in the international sphere, must not be left behind in youth development. We are competing with the world and must therefore prepare our children for this competitive journey.
Young people, around the world, youth are letting their voices be heard. It is time for our youth to help set the public agenda. It is time for us to partner with on an even higher level to build a better Virgin Islands.
My Government is serious about providing you with the necessary developmental opportunities so that you can be on par with the rest of the world to make your mark.
A significant part of developing our youth is the Virgin Islands Emerging Fellow Award. This award celebrates, nurtures and refines the natural talents of the Territory’s young people.
It is about sharing and shaping the future.
We often say: “Tell me, I forget; show me, I remember, but involve me and I will understand”.
These young people ages 10 to 20 years old, are already making their contribution in the Territory. They have shown remarkable talents in areas such as academics, arts, and sports. No doubt, they are an inspiration to their peers and the entire Virgin Islands.
The future of the Virgin Islands is held in the hands of our young people; and my Government understands that we must equip them to steer the helm of this great ship when it is their turn to lead.
The Virgin Islands Emerging Fellow Award opens a window of opportunity for our young people to enhance their skills and develop their craft through training, exposure and mentorship.
Young people, this training means that you can begin to prepare for your career from now. It is never too early to start thinking about what you want to do, and take your rightful place in our workforce.
Ladies and gentlemen, this exposure means that there will be no limits to their creativity and ability to become brilliant thinkers and do-ers.
Parents, coaches, friends, it means that if we step up as mentors, we are helping to shape tomorrow’s future leaders today.
So in advance, I congratulate this year’s recipients of the Virgin Islands Emerging Fellow Award. I urge you to continue to press on.
Inspire others. Be a beacon of light. Remember that we are depending on you to continue to make our Territory proud as the next generation of Olympians, business leaders, culinary geniuses and more!
The determination to succeed which you are now displaying is no doubt indicative of excellent future leaders.
Again, I commend the Minister for Education for a job well done. He has been dedicated in moving this initiative forward and this reflects how serious he is about our young people.
As stewards of our youth, my Government is helping them to transform their passions into viable careers and fostering entrepreneurship, as well as a sense of community service.
My Government is a progressive administration. We are making sure that every student has a chance to live to their fullest potential. This includes students with special needs.
In fact, the Ministry of Education and Culture has very recently awarded students with scholarships so they can also reach their stars and fulfill their dreams.
As leaders of this Territory, we are creating doors of opportunities which allow them to determine their own destiny.
Through the Emerging Fellow Award we are transforming passions into business opportunities. Through the National Youth Policy we are shaping tomorrow’s leaders. Through the Apprenticeship Programme, we are helping our young people to find meaningful employment and contribute to the growth of our economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, young people, this is your Government at work.
Thank you and may God continue to bless the Virgin Islands.