February 2019

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"I was a kind of shy, quiet student," says Shanta Seepersad, a 22-year-old in the final year of her BSc in Leadership and Management at UWI, "but my speaking skills came out in the debate."

Indeed they did. Shanta, who also completed a minor in Political Science, was selected by the Political Science Department to represent the University at the 16th National Youth Parliament (NYP) on November 12 2018. She overcame almost all opposition and placed third in a debate on the decriminalisation of marijuana.

"I was surprised and extremely happy," Shanta says of her debate performance. "I am glad that I was able to represent the University well and make my family and friends happy."

The National Youth Parliament, held at the Office of the Parliament, Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre, brings together young people from schools and other institutions. They take on government portfolios as youth parliamentarians. NYP is hosted by the Executive Committee of the Local Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Shanta’s portfolio was Minister of Education and Member of Parliament for Arima. Her experiences as a political science student and youth parliamentarian have awakened her interest in politics.

"I fell in love with political science," she says, attributing the ability to overcome her natural shyness to her strong affinity for the subject. "I have to be passionate about the topic. Once I enjoy doing it, it brings out that spark in me."

Shanta’s plan is to pursue her master’s degree in political science for the upcoming academic year. Long term she would like to get into active politics.

She says, "People are very disenchanted with both political parties. They want change. They want new minds, new people. And there is a lot to be fixed and changed (in T&T)".

However, she is very aware of the fickle nature of politics and is intent on pursuing a stable career until the time is right to make a potential move into the field. For now, Shanta is pleased that she has found her calling and is grateful to the Department of Social Sciences for the opportunity to represent UWI at the National Youth Parliament.

(Joel Henry)