Remarks by Ambassador Joseph N. Mondello at the launch of the STEM/Life Skills Program

Ambassador Joseph Mondello and Principal Hamida Baksh of the Success Laventille Secondary School

Ambassador Joseph Mondello
Remarks: Empowering Youth with Stem and Life Skills in the Success Laventille Secondary School
Thursday, November 15th, 09:30 – 10:30

Esteemed Students of Success Laventille School

Principal Hamida Baksh

Respected Teachers

US/TT Alumni Dr. Andrew Hunte, Dr. Charisse Griffith-Charles, Dr. Rahanna Juman, and Dr. Charlene Roach

Representatives of the Ministry of National Security, including the Inter Agency Task Force, Hearts and Minds Police; Citizen Security Program

Esteemed parents and other important stakeholders here today

Good morning to all of you.

I am happy to be part of the launch of this special project, which we expect to benefit not only Success Laventille School but also the community at large, as well as Trinidad and Tobago as a whole.

Principal Baksh and teachers – thank you for your foresight in allowing your school to participate in this pilot project.

U.S./TT Alumni – thank you for your devotion to this project and your commitment to the community despite your very busy schedules.  I understand your proposal was selected by the U.S. Department of State from more than 1,300 submissions from 150 countries.

This project was selected because people care about you students and your success.  The United States is rooting for you, the people you see around you are rooting for you, and know that there are others in the country that are watching and rooting for you.

It is our hope to work with you to have an impact here, both for you and for your younger brothers and sisters and cousins and friends who will follow in your footsteps.

This is an important time in your life.  The pressures on you are great.  As Couva East Secondary School national scholarship winner Ruquayya Scott recently said on national television, “Take time to find out who you are, what you like, and have faith in yourself.  Don’t let others opinion of you determine your self-worth.”

Easier said than done, right?  [Ad-lib: Ambassador shared a time as a boy when he didn’t let others opinion of him determine his self-worth, advised to learn a trade and not strive to go to college.]

I want you to begin following your own minds and hearts that future success is for you.

The project we launch today will give you skills in topics such as science, technology, and mathematics.  Companies and government organizations are hurting for employees with these type of skills.  They are especially looking for women to take a place in these fields traditionally dominated by men.

But that’s not all.  This initiative is also about developing your soft skills.  And guess what?  It’s rewarding.

You can volunteer by:

  • helping your mother or grandma wash their windows
  • painting benches in the local park
  • teaching younger students in your neighborhood how to read better
  • helping someone clean the street in front of their house

As the famous American leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ““Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others.”  He also said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

Think about that, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.”  I remember when I first learned about helping others.  [Ad-lib: Ambassador adds personal anecdote about volunteering.  There was a store owner that had just learned that she lost her family in Europe.]

Through this project you will also get to participate in one of the most proven ways to achieve your goals:  having someone who discusses your dreams with you and helps you avoid mistakes and wrong paths.

Consider the alumni of Embassy exchange programs to America who are here today.  They are now established leaders in their field.  Take time before and after class to talk with them and share your ideas.

They are here because they believe in you.  Dr. Hunte used to sit in these same classrooms –in fact, I saw his initials on one of the desks.  He and our other alumni in the room want to see you achieve the same success they have.

So, did you get the message?  Share your dream and make time to talk to others about it.

In closing, it is my hope the efforts of our Alumni Association and the Success Laventille School will send a strong signal to all stakeholders and the wider society at large.  The time has come for persons who care about this country to make contributions by getting involved in volunteerism and in projects like this one.

Let us join Trinidad and Tobago first Prime Minister Eric Williams’ devotion to public service and adhere to the famous words of U.S. President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Start by supporting the work of the Quay Foundation, the We Say Yes organization, the Ryu Dan Dojo, and the Can Bou Play Foundation.  Support the enlightened efforts of Girl Be Heard and the electric Two Cents Movement.

You students are the future of the country. We, teachers and sponsors have a responsibility to instill in you the hope and courage to excel…and to give you the opportunity to realize your full potential so that you may contribute to your families and the progress of the nation.

My best wishes to everyone involved in this project.  Let it be a beginning of great things to come, so that it mushrooms and impacts the lives of as many students as possible throughout your beautiful twin islands.

Thank you.