As concern grows about the violence and other deviant behaviour among Barbados’ school population, one young man took the time today to advise students at his alma mater to “make bold strides” onto paths that would allow them to reach their full potential.
Speaking at a service at the People’s Cathedral to mark the 57th anniversary of the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School, former student Imran Richards lamented that many young people are not fully aware of where they were going.
“Their vision for their life does not move beyond the weekend, does not go beyond a nice pair of shoes or social media; they do not grasp the concept that life is much more than sex, partying and drugs,” he said.
Richards, a youth counsellor who is also known for hosting television programmes and Gospelfest concerts, urged the students to make the most of their education.
“I know many of you have parents who are struggling financially, who can barely afford to give you a full complement of uniforms or lunch money, and the least you can do is to go to school and learn so you can help to lift your parents out of those circumstances,” he urged.
“Sometimes we get too comfortable with where we are, saying that this is your family’s pattern, but until you get tired of where you are, there is nothing that will change your life.”
Richards gave the example of his own life, recounting that he grew up with his grandparents who had to use their pension to send him to school. He said while he did very well in primary school, often coming first in class and graduating as the top student, he made a poor choice after sitting the Common Entrance exam that derailed his education.
“I started taking drugs during the summer vacation, just before I went into first form. I started to come second last in class; I got involved in violence on the school premises; I was disrespecting teachers; I started to skip classes and when I was in class, I was the class clown. When teachers were discussing serious matters I wanted to distract the others to take the attention off me.
“I was always in the principal’s office and was eventually expelled from school. In fact, I was only allowed on the premises to write two CXC exams and the security guard would escort me off as soon as I finished them. It was outlined in my expulsion letter that if I did not comply with the guards they would call the police for me,” he said.
Some years later, Richards was “on the block smoking” when he began reflecting on where he was in life.
“And I prayed and asked God to help me out of it before I ended up in jail or dead,” he recalled.
He noted that a week later, a police officer who had recently moved into his neighbourhood invited him to Sunday lunch.
“At first I thought it was a setup, because of the criminal activity I was involved in along with my uncles, but then the same officer called me two days later and invited me to church with him. So, on the Sunday morning, he picked me up and I really did not know what to expect. But from the moment I got out of the car, I felt the presence of God surround me and I heard His voice saying, ‘Imran, today you are not leaving here the same; you are mine, you belong to me’.
“That day, the same God took my life, wiped my canvas clean and painted a completely different picture. My life was completely changed and I started to make those bold strides towards a better life,” Richards said.
Many of the students were genuinely moved by his testimony and stood for prayer as he made an appeal to them:
“After you make the decision to change your circumstances, get excited about the vision for your future. Too many of our young men and women are living a life far below their potential. Forget about trying to impress other people. Forget about trying to fit in. Make a decision that will benefit your life, and remember that what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.”