Fifty-nine graduates of the Sophia Training Centre were, on Friday last, challenged to choose change in order to grow.“You have to choose to change; if you don’t change, you won’t grow. Change is the one thing that is constant. Things will change, and as you start to move, the path will appear as to where you want to go,” Ministry of the Presidency staffer Shondell France told the graduates.The graduates are all beneficiaries of the Citizens Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP) skills training programme 2017-2018.The training was facilitated under Component One of the Inter-American Development Bank-funded programme aimed at reducing recidivism and strengthening community resilience to crime and violence.The Department of Public Information (DPI) has stated that the students were tutored in Catering, Information Technology, Office Administration, Masonry, Plumbing, Welding, Sheet Metal work and Fabrication, and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning.Speaking of the challenges she overcame — having grown up in poverty, with a drug-addicted foster father from whom her mother eventually fled in the middle of the night, taking her children with her, France assured the graduates that the cycle of poverty can be broken.“Commit to constantly improving yourself,” she advised. “Invest in yourself, make the small changes; surround yourself with people who are going where you want to go. Choose to change,” she admonished.France also encouraged the graduates to take responsibility for events occurring in their lives, and to be willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals. Further, she charged them to assist others as they break the cycle of poverty.The feature address and charge to the newly certified artisans was delivered by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, under whose purview the CSSP is situated.He noted that programmes similar to CSSP have helped to reduce crime and violence among youths in other countries. He noted that the responsibility of reducing crime and violence, especially at the youths’ level, should not be shouldered by the Police alone. He said there must be a social component, a programme that ensures young men and women from vulnerable communities can come forward and get vocational training.Meanwhile, on behalf of IDB Representative Sophie Makonnen, Mariko Russel said, “Our hope is that students graduating today will be able to use the newly acquired skills in their future endeavours in life. We are aware that merely receiving vocational training does not guarantee obtaining employment”.She recognised the graduating class as the “memorable first batch” of the CSSP, which the Ministry of Public Security implemented with funding from the IDB.Special awards were given to best graduating student Avinash Seepaul, second runner-up Ezekiel Roach, and more than a dozen other trainees for their outstanding performances in the various areas of training.