For his sterling contribution towards community development and youth advocacy, St Ann native Bobby Francis has been numbered among this year’s recipients of the Governor General’s Achievement Award.
He reasoned that, through such recognition, young people like himself will be motivated to pursue positive paths despite the many negatives around them.
“We are in a country where there is so much wrong, but we cannot undermine for a second the fact that there is also so much right,” he said. “When we are able to recognize and acknowledge the right, it creates stronger social solidarity against the wrong and motivates others to continue doing the right.”
The 20-year-old, who will start reading for a Bachelor’s degree in Law at the University of the West Indies in August, dedicates his latest award to his community of Runaway Bay, St Ann.
“It serves as an inspiration not just for me, but for the members and young people of my community. In fact I don’t think the award is mine; I think the award is theirs,” he asserted.
His maternal grandmother, Loney McKenzie-Brown, with whom he has been living since he was a baby, is not surprised by her grandson’s growing list of accomplishments.
She told The Beacon that everything Francis has achieved is as a result of how he was groomed.
“I feel good and I knew he would be successful because I grew him up to love people, to share whatever he has, and to give back when the time comes to his community in whatever he is doing,” Brown-McKenzie said.
She expressed hope that other young people will be inspired by her grandson’s achievements.
“Most of these youths of today don’t really think like how a youth should think,’’ Brown-McKenzie postulated. “I hope that my grandson will continue to reach higher and higher so that people can look at him and say, ‘I want to be like Bobby’.”
Francis, an aspiring attorney-at-law and politician, has been holding leadership positions since he was enrolled at Runaway Bay Primary School in St Ann where he served as Head Boy.
He grew stronger in leadership when he moved on to York Castle High.
There, he started out as a member of the student council body, for which he later became president. He also served twice as York Castle’s Head Boy (2019-2020 and 2020-2021).
Francis’ enthusiasm about leadership took him beyond the walls of his school.
He became vice-president of Region 3 of the National Secondary Students’ Council, giving him responsibility for all public secondary schools in the parishes of St. Ann and Trelawny.
In 2018, he was appointed Junior Mayor for the parish of St Ann and Junior Councillor for the Dry Harbour Division in that parish.
In August of the following year, Francis became Governor of the Junior Optimist Octagon International Caribbean District, which is a youth service organization associated with Optimist International. His appointment placed him in charge of junior Optimist service clubs in Antigua, Jamaica, Barbados, and Anguilla.
Blessed with the gift of gab, Francis is a past winner of the Optimist International Oratorical Contest (Caribbean Division), as well as champion in the Rita Marley Foundation Public Speaking Competition (2016). He was also a member of the York Castle High School team that won the 2015 National Secondary Schools Debating Competition.
Not only proving his mettle in youth leadership and advocacy, Francis is an academic standout, who now possesses 16 subjects from the Caribbean Examinations Council.
Those subjects comprised eight that were attained with perfect grades at the CSEC level as well as eight at the CAPE level.
He advised other young people not be discouraged when other’s dreams are moving faster than theirs.
“Each youth has their individual journey… Stay true to your journey,” he said.
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