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Jamaica’s US Ambassador Cops Visionary Leadership Award in New Jersey

Pitches Youth Mentorship to Jamaicans

NEW JERSEY – Her visionary leadership and pioneering diplomatic and entrepreneurial accomplishments have earned Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks, accolades from the Jamaican Organization of New Jersey (JON-J).

The New Jersey Jamaican diaspora organisation conferred the Ambassador with its Distinguished Award of Excellence for Leadership and Diplomacy, hailing Ambassador Marks for her outstanding investment in Jamaica’s advancement, both nationally and internationally.

JON-J bestowed the award at a gala affair marking its 25th anniversary and Jamaica’s 61st anniversary of Independence. The gala event took place at the Newark Airport Marriott Hotel in New Jersey, on Saturday August 26, 2023.

the Jamaican Organization of New Jersey (JON-J) Award Recipients
Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Her Excellency Audrey Marks (Center) with fellow awardees. From left are Dr Robert Clarke, Oliver Samuels, Debra Sims, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Cecile Wright and Irwine Clare. Photo Credit: Derrick Scott

In delivering the keynote address, after accepting the award, Ambassador Marks commended JON-J for capturing the hearts of the people in the communities it serves, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of many and has contributed significantly to nation-building. She singled out the organisation’s noteworthy “work towards improving the educational opportunities for many of our youth through the award of scholarships and educational resources, particularly in times of greatest need.

“Its social assistance programme, including financial support for funeral costs to grieving families, providing food-related items to those in need and contributing vital equipment to Jamaica’s health system, is to be commended,” Ambassador Marks stressed.

Likewise, she commended the organisation’s  “unwavering commitment and tireless efforts in empowering Jamaicans within your community, promoting our rich cultural heritage, and fostering a strong sense of identity and unity.”

She went on to note how, since inception in 1998, JON-J had become a beacon of inspiration and a vital resource for Jamaicans residing in New Jersey and its environs. “This significant milestone aligns with Jamaica’s 61st year of Independence, adding a profound sense of national pride to your anniversary celebrations.”

She said the organization’s theme, “The Strength of a People, The Power of Community,” captures the essence of JON-J’s mission and underscores the strength of your collective achievements, realized through the unity and determination of Jamaicans in New Jersey.”

Youth Mentorship

Ambassador Marks reiterated her proposal that the Association consider implementing a youth travel and mentorship programme – Upliftment, Learning, and Intervention through Foreign Travel (UPLIFT). In addition, she explained that this programme aims to expose young Jamaican boys, aged seven to 18, by hosting them and their parents with families in the United States who will introduce them to different experiences over a two- to three-week period.

Ambassador Marks emphasised that the genesis of UPLIFT was rooted in the need to intervene and cauterise what is happening in the society as it relates to young boys.  The programme is intended to give participants an opportunity to change their environment by affording them a different experience.

Quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most noted American Supreme Court justices, Ambassador Marks stated that “once the mind has expanded by a new experience, it can never regain its original dimensions.”

The Ambassador described it as “one area that I know this organisation can assist with that will make a tremendous difference in the lives of our young boys. I am asking the JON-J president and its members to join me in launching this pilot project in New Jersey.

“The organisation will need to form a committee to assist with the recruiting, vetting and monitoring of suitable families for the programme. The participants will spend at least two weeks with a host family that has been qualified as a safe, nurturing environment, and I know that will start a transformation,” Ambassador Marks advised.

JON-J Award Recipients

Also receiving JON-J awards were: US Congresswoman for Brooklyn, New York, Yvette Clarke, who was given the organization’s Public Service Award;  Irwine Clare, the organization’s Community Service  award; and Jamaican actor and comedian Oliver Samuels who was given the award for Arts and Culture; Dr. Robert Clarke was awarded for Health Care; Cecil Wright for Business; Jamaican balladeer Ritchie Stephens for Music and Culture; and  Debra Simms for Law/Criminal Justice.

JON-J Owen Eccles President said it would be expanding its chapters to cover the entire State of New Jersey. He said the organization currently boasted six chapters in Eastern New Jersey and, with the growth of Jamaican communities in the Garden State, the organization would be spreading its wings to capture younger and more community-oriented Jamaicans.


South Florida Caribbean News

The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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