Youth Mayor for St. Ann’s Bay, Bobby Francis, is using his platform to encourage more young people to get involved in politics in order to have their voices heard on national issues.
The head boy and sixth-form student at York Castle High School, says that youth participation in the country’s decision-making is critical to national development.
He says he wants young people to understand that their voices matter.
“Young people need to recognise that they need to be an active part of the solution to Jamaica’s problem. As the Governor-General always says, ‘we need to take what is right with Jamaica and fix what is wrong with Jamaica’,” he says.
“Young people need to recognise that they have the potential to be that critical part of what is right with Jamaica,” he adds.
The youngster, who had his first stint as junior mayor in 2018/2019, says that one of his principal agenda items during his first year in office was to bridge the gap between youth and politics.
“Young people need to recognise that they need to be an active part of the solution to Jamaica’s problem.”
“Oftentimes, youth just have this understanding that they are to be separate and apart from politics… . We can’t too blame them, we have to blame the way we socialise the youth that it is negative to uphold politics. So one of my biggest accomplishments last year [2018/2019] was to engage and sensitise them on the positives of politics,” he notes.
He notes that during that first year, he worked with his team of junior councillors to restructure the operations of the youth council, providing a “more sophisticated and professional approach” to youth governance.
He says the St. Ann Youth Council is now seen as the “zenith of youth leadership” in the parish.
“Oftentimes, persons don’t take youth council and youth-led organisations seriously and that is because youth do not present themselves seriously.
“If you present yourself with a serious agenda and a serious image, people have to take you seriously, because you know what you are doing. We brought that level of sophistication to our youth council, and persons became interested. It reformed how the council looked… and persons admired it,” he notes.
Promote mental health awareness, climate change
The aspiring politician says that his mandate for 2019/2020 is to promote mental health awareness as well as spark interest and activism on climate change.
He says that the climate change conversation has been dominated by scientists, technocrats and political leaders for some time now, and he plans to bring that conversation into schools.
“Climate change has become a heated discussion and we cannot sit back and allow the conversation to be dominated solely by the older generation. Climate change is affecting the present, it is going to affect the future and we are a part of the future,” he argues.
Bobby, who is also Chairman of the Student Council of York Castle High, was appointed Governor of the Junior Optimist Octagon International Caribbean District in August 2019. The youth service organisation is affiliated with Optimist International.
“I love reaching out and impacting lives. I love touching young people, and being governor of the district that is spread across the Caribbean with many clubs helping kids; that is truly the agenda of service that I have,” he says.
The dynamic youth leader uses his oratory skills to connect with his peers.
He was the 2016 champion of the Rita Marley Foundation Public Speaking Competition and a past winner of the Optimist International Oratorical Contest for the Caribbean Division.
“I live by the philosophy ‘don’t wait to be in the valley to appreciate the mountain top’”
Academically, he has attained nine Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects with distinction and is now pursuing law in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
With his many achievements, Bobby remains true to his faith in God, noting that he has a passion for ministry.
“I live by the philosophy ‘don’t wait to be in the valley to appreciate the mountain top’. That philosophy instils humility within me and helps me to recognise the true purpose that I am here for.
“One of my biggest accomplishments is to be a servant of the Lord, and to be a youth minister of the Gospel, and I love to preach,” he notes.