Tweet Students at the Denham Town Primary School in Kingston, along with their teachers, are revelling in the success of the institution, which copped the lion's share of prizes in the 2017 Youth Gambling Prevention All-Island Poster Competition.
Of the 10 prizes on offer, the institution took home seven at the recent awards ceremony held in Kingston, sharing one with Immaculate Conception High School.
Denham Town also had the top teacher, with Immaculate Conception High second.
"I am so ecstatic," says Shantae Dyer, who tied for first place with schoolmate, Patrick Frater. They had separate entries. Shantae tells JIS News that she learnt a lot from the competition and is now empowered to stay away from gambling. Shantae's entry depicts the negative consequences of gaming, while highlighting that the "sky is the limit" for those who stay on the right path and "reach for the stars".
She says she will be taking the message of prevention to her peers, advising them that they should not gamble but "stay focused on their school work".
Patrick credits his success to hard work and support from the school's Guidance Counsellor, Mahalia Dennis-Edwards, who "always pushes us to do what we must do". He says he too gained a great deal of knowledge, which he will be passing on to other students. "Gambling is bad, and can cause your life," he notes.
Patrick's poster, modelled off the children's board game, Snakes and Ladders, shows the failures that come with underage gaming. Once persons stay away from gaming they climb the ladder, showing that they get ahead in life.
However, with the bite of a snake, persons engaged in gambling are sent backwards in the game and life.
Guidance Counsellor, Mahalia Dennis-Edwards, says she is very proud of the performance of the students of the downtown Kingston-based institution.
"We tell our students that despite everything that is happening around you, you have to stay focused and… hold your heads high," she tells JIS News. Daijah-Leigh Wyatt of Immaculate Conception High, who placed third, told JIS News that she is very happy.
"This is the first competition I ever entered. It is for a good cause," she notes, while encouraging other students to enter the annual contest. "There is no success with gambling," she says.
Now in its eighth year, the poster competition, organised by RISE Life Management Services, is part of activities aimed at preventing gambling among youth, and in particular school-age adolescents, by creating awareness about the dangers that underage gaming poses.
It was sponsored by the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), and Supreme Ventures.
In order to gamble legally in Jamaica, persons must be 18 years and over.
Executive Director of RISE Life, Sonita Morrison Abrahams, tells JIS News that the poster competition offers children the opportunity to learn about the importance of gambling-prevention through the arts.
"It is building awareness of why young people should not gamble, in a creative, but important, way," she points out. She notes that the entity's "dynamic relationship" with sponsors has enabled it to establish and maintain a responsible gaming programme that is on par with countries that have far more advanced gaming industries than Jamaica.
Mrs. Morrison Abrahams says underage gambling has the capacity to cause "considerable damage" to the gaming industry and the wider society, and international data strongly support the need for programmes of prevention and intervention.
Other work being done by the organisation includes capacity-building programmes for civil society groups, testing and prevention initiatives for persons vulnerable to health risks, and in-house and telephone counselling services for drug- and gambling-addicted individuals.
Through its RISE Kidz Club, the entity provides opportunities for 320 children, aged 9-14 years, to participate in supervised recreational, educational and social activities in a safe and wholesome environment, where they learn the importance of leadership and self-control.
The club also prepares students for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).
RISE Life Management Services operates the only gambling-prevention, treatment, research and responsible-gaming programme in the Caribbean, which has been in existence for more than 11 years.
Since its inception in 1989, RISE Life has trained more than 1,000 guidance counsellors and 300 peer counsellors in areas ranging from problem-solving to drug abuse.
The entity also works with parent-teacher associations, and community and social groups to engage agents of socialisation, who influence the development of the nation's young people.
Executive Director of the BGLC, Vitus Evans, for his part, says his organisation is pleased with the work of the students "to communicate the very important message about responsible gaming".
He notes that it serves to highlight the pitfalls of underage gambling while encouraging young people to make the right choices in order to live successful lives as adults. He says the agency will be using its communication medium to showcase the posters to the public.
Mr. Evans stresses that while institutions are reaching young people with positive messages, adults have a critical role in protecting children and encouraging them to stay away from gambling.
The top-10 awardees in the competition are Patrick Frater and Shantae Dyer, Denham Town Primary; Orane Forest, Denham Town Primary; Daijah-Leigh Wyatt, Immaculate Conception High; Sanshane White, Denham Town Primary; Odain Bryan, Bridgeport High; Candice Garwood and Soleil Graham, Immaculate Conception High; Kamryn Auld, Immaculate Conception High; Lianna Hylton, Denham Town Primary; Shania Clemetson, Denham Town Primary; and Altino Standburey - Denham Town Primary and Danielle Delgado, Re'Anna Barcley, Mercedes Heywood - Immaculate Conception High.
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