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Must Alex Panton follow in his parents’ political footsteps?

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THE bar has indeed been set high for 17-year-old Alexander Michael David Panton, whose famous parents are the Miss World Beauty Queen of 1993 and former Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, and former Senator Dr David Panton, an investment banker.

Young Panton faces the dilemma of many children who are determined to forge a path for themselves and emerge, in time, from the shadows of their celebrity parents, by becoming independent and developing their own brand.

Looking to graduate from the American School of Kingston (AISK) this year, Panton has already begun to plot the way forward.

“I’m contemplating from now whether to take a gap year and go to work in Nigeria or Australia where there are great job opportunities, or whether to go straight to college overseas after AISK,” Panton says in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Aside from having extremely supportive parents, Panton is articulate, has a keen mind and, not surprisingly, good looks. He also has a mind of his own, as he demonstrated last year summer.

For one of two summer jobs, Panton did research work and telephone calls seeking votes for Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz on his re-election campaign during the United States midterms, and did well at it.

“I got the most ‘yeses’ and was promoted to VIP researcher, tasked with meeting and researching Ted’s most beneficial donors,” he says.

His work with African-Americans who are pre-disposed to vote Democrat, helped Cruz to increase his support among that group from five per cent to 15 per cent in the midterms, Panton tells the Observer.

Immediately afterwards, he went to Cuba to do farm work but, more so, to observe life in the socialist island because he wanted to see the other end of the political spectrum.

That, Panton said, would help him to decide on a political philosophy going forward, a clear suggestion that he was not blindly siding with his mother’s People’s National Party or his dad’s Jamaica Labour Party.

He found the Cuban system enticing, having seen no poverty; high literacy levels; high life expectancy and how much the country wanted “what is best for its people”, but noted that critics insist he had not seen “the real Cuba”.

Describing himself as leaning socially liberal, young Panton who turns 18 on March 17, says he will pursue a major in political science with a minor in finance when he does go to college, as that could easily lead to a career in areas such as journalism, finance and the like.

Despite the determination to be his own man, Panton cannot escape the political influence in his young life. He says that in time he could become a politician, “because I would like to serve my country in the future”.

“I don’t like to see when people don’t have the basic things that I have and take for granted. I enjoy the human sciences. I feel I can understand people and can work with them to improve their lives,” he says.

That explains why on one of his many trips to his mother’s Southeast St Ann constituency, he saw an elderly amputee who was living in the bushes and did not have a bathroom. On the spot he decided to build him one.

For that project he relied on skills he was taught by his entrepreneur stepdad, Richard Lake, on how to raise the necessary funds. Lake’s tutoring had helped him raise an impressive $300,000 for an earlier AISK project.

Out of his St Ann effort, Panton started Evolution Solutions, a community development programme under which he is currently building two more bathrooms for needy elderly people, with more to come in the future, he vows.

“I get real satisfaction knowing that these people are going to live a better quality of life…A bathroom might seem like a small thing but it is fundamental to human life,” he notes.

Panton credits AISK for the person he has become. He cherishes his time there, especially the opportunity to participate in the Global Issues Network in Brazil in 2015 where his group presented on recycling; as well as in the Model United Nations conference as the ambassador for his delegation in The Hague, the Netherlands, the following year.

He delights in having been able to arrange an engagement while there with Jamaica’s Patrick Robinson, an esteemed judge of the International Court who hosted his delegation to dinner.

At school he was voted president of the National Honour Society, a prefects body to which one has to be invited based on “character, integrity, principles and all that good stuff”.

His adult-sounding talk aside, Panton is heavily into video games. As part of the Dr Birds team, he competes in the online-based e-Sport which he says is growing exponentially in Jamaica. Dr Bird has a $100,000 tournament prize to show for its skill at Call of Duty, a military game.

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