Jhe'Vonte Webster excels despite circumstances, encourages internshipsSunday, September 19, 2021
BEING the first person in his family to attend university, Jhe'Vonte Webster, 22, has embarked on a path to not only elevate himself, but also to go against the status quo, being from a volatile inner-city community and growing up in poverty.
Webster, who is from New Haven, St Andrew, is a recent graduate of The University of West Indies (UWI), Mona. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication.
He is now a candidate for the master of science in the human resource development programme at The UWI, and is employed as an intern at The Jamaica National Group, in the Talent and Performance Management Unit of The People & Culture Department.
“I grew up in a one-bedroom house with both parents, my older sister, and my two younger brothers. In my community people don't generally go to university. From what I recall, the only persons in my area who have attended university are me and a young lady who went to The University of Technology. Most people go and find a job after high school, and sometimes they don't even finish high school. The boys would normally drop out of school at about grade nine and start working on construction sites or selling scrap metal,” Webster pointed out.
However, the former head boy of Calabar High School said that his parents did not allow him to miss school on any given day and for him, education was the only vehicle which could drive him out of poverty.
He added that, although his parents could not afford university, they encouraged him to apply for school and scholarships, as well as motivated him when he felt like giving up.
Webster was able to go through university because of his consistently excellent academic performance, which allowed him to receive several scholarships.
He obtained a scholarship from the P J Patterson Endowment Fund, two CB Chicken scholarships, where one was sponsored by popular media personality and attorney Khadine “Miss Kitty” Hylton; and a scholarship from the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission.
He also received several grants and bursaries.
At The UWI Webster decided to venture into leadership, where he held the position of marketing and logistics director on the Guild's Property and Special Initiatives Sub-Committee.
Today, he holds the high post of guild cultural and entertainment affairs chairperson (CEAC) at The UWI.
“In my first and second years I didn't participate in anything. I simply went to school and went home. However, when the final year came, one of my friends and I decided that we did not want to just be a normal ID number, and that's how I joined one of the guild committees,” he explained.
As guild CEAC, Webster is responsible for planning and executing events, providing entertainment for students, and encouraging cultural integration and inclusion through events.
“My CEAC team and I will be embarking on several initiatives as we try to shed light on the various cultural elements within The UWI and promote social inclusion as best as possible. Just recently, Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day of the Jewish year, passed. I was able to contact two students from The UWI who are Hebrew/Jewish for an interview so that we could gain further insight,” he pointed out.
Webster, who declared that he enjoys working with the Jamaica National team, where he has been able to develop personally and professionally, is also encouraging his peers and fellow graduates to take up internships when the opportunity presents itself.
“There is so much and no more opportunities for employment that are being made available to us as young people, so when you get the opportunity to get an internship, it is a chance to show the employers your value and work ethic. If they want to ascertain your value and you want to pursue a future in your respective field, within that company, you have to prove to them why they should have you on as a permanent staff member. That way, when a position opens up, you'd automatically be selected,” he opined.
He added that he has seen where internships and volunteerism have led to people achieving great success at different stages in their life.
Paulette Sterling, head of the Talent & Performance Management Unit at The Jamaica National Group, says JN's three-pronged approach to its internship programme visibly demonstrates its commitment to develop employees and, by extension, the prospective Jamaican workforce to first meet competency standards and achieve mastery and growth.
“It allows JN to constantly learn at a fast rate from the changing environment and develop teams which are inspired and ready to deliver results. The infusion of fresh and new ideas from youth in an internship programme presents many opportunities to tackle old problems from a different perspective,” she noted.
Sterling added that, the JN Group provides its employees with a wholesome, family-oriented environment, enabling them to achieve not only their professional goals, but also personal developmental goals.
“We put our people first. They are the drivers of our corporate strategies, processes, and growth. From the moment a staff member begins their journey with us they are building their future and belonging to a family,” she affirmed.
Webster's supervisor and learning and development officer at JN Group, Donna-Marie Livingston, said that he is a creative individual.
“His determination and drive to deliver positive contributions and make his mark on this world will take him far,” she maintained.
Webster said that humility is one of his core values and he does not believe that the world, or people, owes him anything.
He added that, “While they are young professionals, people should know their value and, most of all, they need not overemphasise their importance to society.”