Romel Gordon was always on the road, and usually up to no good. But, what would you expect from the leader of the Nah Fren Dem (NDF) Crew! Why would you think he was the holder of nine CXC subjects? Romel was a badman so why is he helping “School Dons” turn their lives around today!
Romel who lives in Four Paths, Clarendon, a year ago was sent to the Ja-Style Project in the Southern Region as a special placement from the National Youth Service.
That experience changed his life “that same old bad boy that usually push badness come back now and advocating against violence,” said Romel.
It prompted him to start ‘Youth Help’ a project that targets the ‘School Dons’ starting with his alma mater Vere Technical High School.
‘School Dons’ are students who not only bully other students but also have their crews who disrupt the activities of the school on a daily basis. This is a social issue that is growing in prevalence across the nation.
Romel has a novel approach to changing the behaviours of these crews. Although outlandish his approach has generated phenomenal results. Infiltration is at the centre of Romel’s approach. Dressed as a student he spends days interacting with the key mischief-makers at a school. He works directly with the ‘bad boys’ in this guise to bring about change. Romel’s approach has time and time again, eliminated the feeling of alienation between the ‘School Dons’ and the school administration. Resulting in a harmonious positive relationship.
Lionel Bennett who had a crew of twenty boys is one of Romel’s successes. “Wen di bwoy dem fight in di school … a mi seh guh fi dem an beat dem but mi always get inna trouble fi it.” But working with Romel “was great … it’s the best part of my life since I start working with him. Ah jus learn how to be a betta person – put down dis donmanship,” said Lionel.
Cognizant Technical Officer of USAID, Dr. Jennifer Knight-Johnson speaking at the launch of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) recently, applauded Romel and named him a “champion in violence prevention … who creates that oneness with the young people he is working with.”
Youth Help “has created a dramatic change across the entire school population … the project has created a lot of avenues for communication within the school system,” between bad boys and the administration he said.
Romel Gordon is now the JYAN* Violence Prevention Coordinator with the Jamaica Solution to Youth Lifestyle and Empowerment (Ja-Style). In 2007, Romel was awarded the Grace Trailblazer Award in recognition of his work.
* JYAN is a network of more than 300 young people who advocate on behalf of the nation’s youth on particular issues such as sex education, crime and violence, disabled youth and high rates of unemployment among young people. (Taken from the Daily Gleaner - July 21, 2007)
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