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The sky is not the limit
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The sky is not the limit

Growing up, Commonwealth Youth Awards 2020 finalist Samuel Neil had lofty dreams of becoming a pilot. Now, as founder of The Aviation Club of Jamaica, a national initiative which encourages young people to enter the aviation sector, he is helping other young people’s dreams soar. Commonwealth Correspondent Tshwanelo Fokazi, 27, from Ekurhuleni, South Africa caught up with Samuel, whose programme has introduced hundreds of local young people to the world of aviation and supported many to go on to become qualified aviation professionals.

Samuel Neil, from Kingston, Jamaica, was shortlisted as one of 16 Commonwealth Youth Awards 2020 finalists. But this is not the only achievement under his belt. At just 26 years of age, Neil is a licensed pilot and he has number of certificates on safety, crew resource management, dangerous goods transportation and corporate social responsibility. He also won the 2010 Innovative Concept of Promoting General Aviation in Jamaica award.

I interviewed Samuel to find out what makes him tick.

Tell us about your schooling and anything interesting that you can recall from your schooling days.

I began working towards a career in aviation in Grade 8. I attended the Meadowbrook High School in Kingston, Jamaica from 2005 to 2010. Thereafter, I volunteered to look after my grandfather for a year after high school. As a result, I didn’t commence flight school immediately.

I later enrolled into flight school in 2012 at the Caribbean Aviation Training Center and attained my Private Pilot’s License in 2015. While attending both schools, I learned two valuable lessons: working hard and being consistent, diligent and creative would bring forth the results I desired. I also learned that very fulfilled people live a life of passion. That passion helps them to get through the air pockets of life. Living a fulfilled life and a life of passion makes up one’s legacy. 

Who had the greatest impact on you as a child?

I was a quiet child growing up– the kind of child who spent his time inside playing with toys or watching TV. I believe my parents had the greatest impact on me as a child. They provided me with family values and structure, which played an integral part in developing character. They are very supportive.

Growing up, they always supported my aspirations–whether in sports, aviation or general life goals. As a result, when I developed the ambition to become an aviation professional they supported my initiative.

My parents would go to bed seeing me working on a project, wake up and still see me working but wouldn’t disturb me. Instead, they would make a cup of tea or coffee, rest it beside me and pat me on my shoulder.  

Aviation Club of Jamaica’s first event at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT)

What are your favourite “words of wisdom”?

I have two favorite quotes. The first is one of my very own. “The best way to encourage someone to live their dreams is through you living yours”. The second is Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”: 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

What do you wish the rest of the Commonwealth countries and the world knew about Jamaica?

Jamaica has much to offer. Our country was developed by different nationalities and cultures, which makes us a diverse nation today. As our motto indicates, we’re many and we’re different in various aspects but we remain “one people” working toward achieving a common goal. 

Is the media portrayal of Jamaica a true reflection of your country?

For the most part it is. We’re very talented, creative, hard working, and a welcoming, fun and vibrant nation. Our land and natural resources are some of the best in the world. Our people are very hospitable and we are one of the best places in the world to visit.

We’re growing in how we do business on the global stage, and our tourism, sports, health, and educational programmes are continuing to grow. On the other hand, we too have our own problems like everyone else, such as crime, poverty, and corruption among others.

Samuel Neil (left) with Curtis Marsh at Curtis’s graduation from FIT

What advice would you give to young ones that look up to you and would like to emulate you someday?

Find what you’re passionate about and find what your gift is. I believe that your gift will indeed make room for you. 

Describe yourself using only 10 words.

I am unique, passionate, driven, loving, courageous, thoughtful, creative, reliable, strong, virtuous.   

That sounds very powerful… any weaknesses?

Time management, procrastination, taking on too much responsibility.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself growing into the man I’ve always imagined–a God-fearing man with a family of my own consisting of a wife and children. I see myself being a well-rounded aviation professional transporting people around the world in fast, luxurious, technologically-advanced aircraft.

I see myself sharing my passion for life and aviation on a large scale in Jamaica, the region and the world through The Aviation Club of Jamaica and the Caribbean. I believe the organization will not just be a club but an aviation career centre consisting of a club, flight school, and career development centre. 

What would you like to see more of in your country?

I would like to see Jamaican youth receiving recognition and support in their respective initiatives that are filling a gap within their communities and country.   The most difficult thing for me about living in Jamaica currently as that the youth lack resources that will propel us towards achieving our goals.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Your behavior today will become your history tomorrow, make sure it is well written.

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The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work highlight the contributions of young people who are making a difference in their communities and celebrate their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

About me: I am a custodian for women empowerment through my online platform, Smart ZAR Girls. My passion for leadership has opened up opportunities for me: I am a One Day Leader alumni and a former BBC Africa debate key guest speaker, and a 2014 voluntary delegate for the Media Monitoring Africa initiative ‘‘Youth News Agency’’. My mantra is ‘‘we are more than that’’. This pushes me to constantly perceive and celebrate growth in myself, others and the rest of the continent. You can reach me on Twitter @TshwaneloFokazi

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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