Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 14th 2013 Contents KHARA PERSAD
There s that moment. One moment
in everyone s life when something
clicks, and suddenly you know you
can be more. You can be better.
Then again, we re not all that lucky,
and in the real world, that moment of
clarity may not come easily for everyone.
Sometimes a teenager s unconven-
tional dream job, such as hair stylist,
make-up specialist, plumber, carpenter,
is kept a secret from friends and family
for fear of humiliation or failure, or a
belief that the tools to be successful
aren t available.
But with the right push and men-
torship, that aha moment; that "wait a
minute, you mean I could really do this?"
epiphany is possible. And there s that
Stacey Benjamin is an aha-moment
specialist. She is the founder and prin-
cipal consultant for Sidaico Image Serv-
ices, which specialises in image man-
agement. She has recently established
the Game Changer Initiative, which tar-
gets schools with "at-risk" students
who doubt their potential for success.
"Most of the schools that offer voca-
tional subjects are the schools where
the student base is a heavy population
of at-risk students," Benjamin said.
Benjamin is focusing on this group
of teens because she said they needed
that extra attention and push to over-
come ostensible obstacles.
"I don t want them to think they are
forgotten or neglected.
"We want to eradicate the negative
stigmas attached to trade-oriented jobs
and skilled-based careers."
She said at-risk students tended to
gravitate toward these types of careers,
so encouragement was necessary to
develop their skills into future employ-
"When a child comes to a parent who
has invested in schooling and says I
want to be a hair dresser or I want to
be a plumber, it s a downer for the par-
This stigma causes these teens to
become despondent and discouraged,
"Even teachers discourage students
from doing beauty culture, and some-
times I think that comes from a place
of lack of information and appreciation."
Benjamin said many parents did not
associate trade-oriented jobs with suc-
cessful careers and viable business.
A part of the mentorship programme
includes showing students the link
between social studies, principles of
business, principles of accounts, com-
munication and mathematics, with run-
ning a successful business.
"You have to be mathematically
inclined to a certain extent, you have to
do well in English if you want to market
your business. We want to show them
that these other academic subjects are
not a downer, they are complements to
help cushion your craft to make you a
At her first session with Arima North
Secondary School last Monday, Benjamin
said it was "like a light bulb went on
when I told them that."
"We are going to create those aha
moments for them, on purpose."
She told the excited students they
had the potential to be their own boss,
of their own businesses.
"I explained to them that this offers
entrepreneurial freedom, and puts you
in a position where you don t have to
wait for someone to hire you."
Benjamin is an experienced hair stylist
and make-up artist herself, and was
once a financial advisor at three insur-
In 2006 she hosted the first Fashion,
Image and Beauty vacation camp for
young women where participants
worked on perfecting their outer and
inner beauty. The taste of that experience
led Benjamin to where she is now---a
mentor to at-risk youth.
Benjamin s drive to be a mentor is in
her DNA. She is the daughter of late
calypsonian legend Lord Blakie, whom
she described as being a mentor to her
and many other people.
"Who I am and what I do is genetic,
in a big way."
She laughed as she said her father
also imparted his fashion savvy sense
"My dad was a real fashionista. He
was incredibly stylish," she said, unable
to stop laughing as she reminisced about
"I have his spirit." she said.
"They shared a love for laughter."
Also throwing support behind the
pilot game changer initiative is MP for
Lopinot and Bon Air West Dr Lincoln
"His constituency office is funding
about 25 per cent of the programme."
She said proposals were still out-
standing, as Sidaico awaited confirma-
tion of sponsorship from several enti-
Gayelle founder Errol Fabien is also
on board to lead a motivational work-
Benjamin plans to extend her project
into East Port-of-Spain, a hot spot for
criminal activity in the country.
"I feel that this would work...This
shows them another option."
By November, Benjamin hopes to hit
five secondary schools, offering men-
torship courses on food preparation,
woodwork, electrical skills, and auto-
"I want to motivate those students
who are so inclined to these vocational
capacities. I want to motivate them to
go ahead, and pursue their dreams, that
it s a viable career. I want them to change
She said students needed to realise
that in order to get change, they needed
to be their own change.
Monday, October 14, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Special guest speaker Errol Fabien chats with students of Arima North Secondary School during a weekly
session aimed at motivating at-risk students to pursue their dreams.
Giving teens their aha moment
Stacey Benjamin's Game Changer
Initiative targets at -risk students.
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