Club Enlightenment, a beacon of hope for Jamaican students (Part I)

L-R: M Club Enlightenment members Malik Vernon, Christopher Menzies, KayAnn Harrison, Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, Samara Brown, Social Media Marketing Coordinator of and Kimani Veron.

L-R: Club Enlightenment members Malik Vernon, Christopher Menzies, KayAnn Harrison, Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, Samara Brown, Social Media Marketing Coordinator for and Kimani Vernon.-Charles Glover Photo.

By Carmen Glover

During the period when he attended the prestigious high school Kingston College, in Kingston, Jamaica, Hector Stevens developed the gift of gab. As he progressed to the University of Technology, known in the 1980s as the College of Arts, Science and Technology, he majored in mechanical engineering while continuing to eagerly discuss ways to improve the circumstances faced by students across the island. It is therefore unsurprising that Stevens has harnessed his diverse interests and corralled them under one broad umbrella with the establishment of Club Enlightenment, an organization designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop a plan of action for their lives.

“The idea for Club Enlightenment ‎was conceived on November 23, 2013 because of my observations at the time that that the youth didn’t know how to think,” Stevens said, musing over the club’s genesis. “The objective for the club was to discover my life purpose in terms of mind, health, body and wealth then share that with students so that they could improve their lives.”  For Stevens, the journey to self-discovery stemmed from past turmoil in his life.


Christopher Menzies received rousing applause after singing two songs for the guests.

“After 19 years working for a company I was fired because different management took over and they wanted to micro-manage me‎. They changed the whole culture and I wasn’t in alignment ” he explained. “After my dismissal I did some soul-searching for two years.” In retrospect, Stevens ‎realized that his period of introspection centered squarely on five specific areas of his life: mind and body, which he addressed through rigorous participation at the gym; reading a lot to develop new tools; Learning to relax because, as he described it, “Over the years I was working 14-hour-days so I decided to get more rest so that I could think clearer;” developing a new way to support his family and establishing a spiritual base.

The two-year hiatus stretched into four years, while friends and family eyed Stevens with mild to intense curiosity and some measure of skepticism as they wondered: What is going on with Hector? But Stevens continued to march to the beat of his own drum, convinced that God was leading him to fulfill his intrinsic purpose in life.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens is committed to steering students to a path of discipline and success.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens is committed to steering students to a path of discipline and success.

“After four years of self-discovery and self-expression I wanted to impart a new way of thinking on teenagers that I met in a social setting, particularly playing football” said‎ the former college soccer player. But the transition to his role as executive director of Club Enlightenment was not entirely smooth and the students that Stevens wanted to mentor were shrewd. They double-checked what he said and conducted surreptitious stake-out exercises to ensure that his actions matched his words. Once be passed their investigations, a process about which he was blissfully unaware, the students, who fondly refer to Stevens as “Uncle Hector,” approached him to have a series of conversations, from which the framework for Club Enlightenment emerged.

“Most of us are seeking more than the shallowness of life,” said Christopher Menzies, 19, a versatile singer, producer and writer who treated the staff and other guests to stirring musical renditions as a prelude to this interview on Sunday, August 17 in St, Catherine, Jamaica. Kimani Vernon, 20, a chemical engineering major at the University of Technology (UTECH) in Kingston, agreed.”We were searching for something new,” he said. For Kimani’s 17-year-old brother Malik, a computer science major also at UTECH the pull of Club Enlightenment was fueled by a desire to escape a cloud of darkness that had enveloped his psyche. “I wanted a solution. I wanted to wake up and smile,” he said, “Uncle Hector told me to think positive and after a while I became happier.” Kay Ann Harrison, 24, who is interested in writing a book about her life, found Club Enlightenment and clung to it like a weary desert traveler who gets a sip of water to quench her parched lips.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, KayAnn Harrison and Christopher Menzies share their thoughts about the club with staff.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, KayAnn Harrison and Christopher Menzies share their thoughts about the club with staff.

“When I left high school I was isolated. I would stay home alone, no interaction. In my family, I could not speak my mind. I was shut down,” she recalled. And then she discovered the power of the pen. “I began to write poems. With Club Enlightenment, instead of being fearful I came to assess things differently. I’ve learned that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” she said, explaining that her defining moment came when she got a job in sales and had to speak persuasively. “I decided to face my fear,” said the former reserved young lady. “These days I wake up and visualize the day that I want to have that day.”

Malik, who experienced clashes with his father in the past, said Club Enlightenment has changed his outlook and impulses. “I thought I was treated unfairly because I questioned everything and I wanted to be accepted.,” Club Enlightenment changed all of that, he said, “Uncle Hector told me to tell my dad that I loved him and listen to him. I have a friend who was in the exact situation but he didn’t want to listen.” Through his involvement with Club Enlightenment, Malik has developed the capacity to communicate his thoughts respectfully and listen to his parents and other adults, even when he disagrees with their perspectives. His older brother Kimani, said he was “on the other side of the spectrum,” from his sibling. “I was a perfectionist and people used to tell me I looked sad. Meeting Uncle Hector helped me smile more,” he said, an intense expression creasing his face. “I realize that my father is going to be himself and that I get most of my personality traits from my mother who is more laid back.”

Musician Christpher Menzies entertained with songs.

Musician Christopher Menzies entertained with songs.

Upon reflection, Menzies realizes that he has come into his own due to his involvement with Club Enlightenment. “My household was dysfunctional and I was trying to get out of that environment. I used to talk to Kimani, who is my neighbor and schoolmate,” he said. “I used to always hear him talk about Uncle Hector and the group. I talked to Uncle Hector and he gave me words of wisdom.” Menzies said that his involvement with Club Enlightenment came “when things took a big turn in my life. I got kicked out of my home but I was determined not to let that deter me from succeeding.” With the help of Club Enlightenment and Kimani, Menzies said things are getting better. “I’m on a journey to become a more positive person,” he said, and his music helps to keep him grounded. “I sing, write and produce,” he said. “I try to record myself to see if I’m getting better. If I get a chance to sing for people, I do it.”

Stevens said that the camaraderie provided by Club Enlightenment’s participants lead to a strong, supportive community that bolsters students’ self-esteem and highlights their innate talents. As the club approaches its first anniversary, Stevens is exploring ideas to expand the programs and services he offers so that current and future students can develop a broader range of skills and expertise. “My aim for Club Enlightenment is to expand in other venues, such as high schools,” he said. Judging from his track record of listening to his heart and depending on it to guide him, Stevens will undoubtedly achieve all his future goals for the club, and