ROSE HALL, St James - ONE hundred and fifty students from across western Jamaica graduated last Thursday from the Projects Bartender and Tourism programme under the Diageo Learning for Life Initiative.
Among those receiving special awards at the graduation ceremony held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall were Fellon Robinson, Melisa Gordon, Rashawn Martin, and Demar Reid.
All four received the Trailblazers Awards for their outstanding performance during the 10-week-long programme.
Learning for Life is a DIAGEO Latin America and Caribbean programme designed to transform lives of underprivileged people in the communities in which the company operates, through directly and indirectly providing education and skills, in an effort to give people a real chance to get a job and become valued and respected contributors to their communities.
The programme focuses on four broad areas of competency, providing education and skills for graduates to find work in tourism, retailing, the arts, and/or hospitality.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Wykeham McNeill, who delivered the keynote address while congratulating the graduates challenged them to be proud ambassadors for Jamaica, as he urged them to apply the skills acquired from the programme to provide excellent service.
He told the gathering that his ministry is actively examining ways to ensure that the country earns more from its visitors.
"We are also looking at ways to increase the percentage of the tourist dollar that is spent on goods and services produced in Jamaica. In this way, we can ensure the impact of tourism is felt across a wider cross-section of the economy, improving the lives of young person's such as yourselves," said McNeill.
Added McNeill: "We all need to see tourism as more than visitors to our island basking in the sun, sand and sea. It's about that immeasurable treasure that is converted to the visitor experience; that provision of excellence in service that differentiates destination Jamaica from our competitors. I can tell you with all sincerity that from the visitor's point of view, it is the interaction with the local people of Jamaica that is the true gem."
Valedictorian Ebony Bucknor, in her address, commended Diageo for initiating the programme.
"(During the programme) we truly discovered the intricacies of bartending. We discovered that it was not merely about throwing a few drinks together," she explained.
"The Diageo Learning for Life programme allows us to make use of tools we needed for a better and brighter future and the opportunity for us to garner skills not only to better ourselves and our families, but also our country."
Junior Tourism and Entertainment Minister Damion Crawford was also in attendance at the graduation ceremony.
Diageo is the parent company of Red Stripe.