How gratifying it is when our nation’s youth are celebrated for a change. If only they could reverse the growing stigma that is gradually being placed upon them and garner some well needed applause. At the Youth Awards, hosted last week, amongst all others was the highly anticipated Youth of Excellence or Youth of the Year Award. The nominees for this category were all commendable, but there was to be only one truly worthy of the accolade; Tevin Shepherd.
Tevin Shepherd is a national youth advocate and leader. Born and raised in Canaries, the 20-year-old has centered his life around community service and youth work. Here is his story.
How did it all start for you?
TS: It basically started from my community. I longed to see some sort of development in my area, to see the youth go forward and to make a positive impact on their lives. At what age did you get into community work? TS: I was between the ages of 14 and 15, and it began with a group called Project Can (which is short for Project Canaries). With them I engaged in a lot of community activities, and then I moved to the national level while supporting the local groups in my community. That then led to me becoming a member of the National Youth Council and then representing Saint Lucia through CARICOM youth forums. So it started from grassroots and now I’m here.
You’ve worked with the youth on all levels; how has the experience been for you?
TS: I always say that youth work has made me who I am. The rewards are not monetary, but you acquire new skills, you learn how to speak to others and work in teams. So it’s personal development while helping develop others in the process, so it’s a win-win situation. You begin to network, to meet amazing and well respected people so you get better opportunities in life. You were successful in obtaining the Youth of the Year Award.
How confident were you that you would win?
TS: I was very confident. Last year I was nominated for three categories including Youth of the Year, but I didn’t win any. This year, I only got nominated for the Youth of Excellence Award and I won. My supporters and the people that I work with were confident and I guess this year they put me in that category to encompass all that I do.
Which of your achievements do you think helped win you the Youth of the Year Award?
TS: Well, in terms of my community, I teamed up with David Henry to organize the Under 14 Football Against Racism (FARE) programme. On a national level, I was a member of the Youth Month planning committee, where I assisted the planning for Youth Parliament, Youth Explosion and Youth Ecumenical service. Regionally, I was Saint Lucia’s Youth Representative to the United Nations. Through their Development Programme, I worked with other young persons across CARICOM on initiatives such as the International Youth Federation Conference.
Explain your feelings when you received the Award.
TS: I was very humble; it was wonderful for me. And I wasn’t only proud of myself but my community Canaries, as we got the award for best religious organization. So I was also proud of them because I wouldn’t have been Youth of the Year without their support, being involved with them and getting the opportunity to develop them and contribute to their lives.
Do you do any work in your community singlehandedly?
TS: No. Everything I have done is in conjunction with the groups in the community; because that’s what youth work is about. You cannot develop people without working with them. I have no personal projects. I may have initiated a project but I always work with people.
What is your opinion in terms of the level of youth development in your community, having worked with the youngsters of Canaries for the past five to six years?
TS: In Canaries I know some people are trying, and the challenge is getting people to come on board and to get involved. People want to see things happening before they decide to join the initiative. So the challenge is getting people to buy-in and to get on board. But I think we have a lot of people who are interested in the movement and who want to see themselves succeed and their community move forward. Tevin informed me that this Youth of the Year award is not to justify his work and to culminate his determined efforts in the community and across the island. He says that this award assures him that his deeds are appreciated and that he will continue his passionate endeavor of being a ‘shepherd’ for the youth.