2010 Scholarship Recipient

Latoya Thomas, University of West Indies, Jamaica

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Living life in Jamaica is not the sterilized setting of “a vacation on an island”. For a maturing individual, especially one living in its pan-urban sectors or inner city, it is home to lost opportunities and deferred dreams, owing to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances. In a household filled with matriarchs (a typical setting of the absentee father), the mantle will readily be passed onto me in the future, as I am the proposed “golden girl” of our cramped abode. The female heads of my household (my grandmother and aunt) despite their abilities, have failed miserably to move up the social ladder, yet with increasing resilience, they now place their complete conviction in my obtaining a tertiary education or degree to break burden of their disadvantaged past.

Jamaica suffers from 8 out of 10 of its intellectuals migrating abroad, which generates a severe brain drain and robs the country of their contributions. The few “intellectual elites” that remains also impress upon the masses, the significance of education to consequently better the people and our country. Education has then become the social and economic agent of transformation. It powers the wheels that run our country- “Who gets what”, and “Who is whom”. The role of education is also an ambiguous one as it can perpetuate and confine the riches for the rich or at times, to grant the poor man a window of opportunity. It is this duality of its character that permits the centrality and power of education, to be a driving force in my family, community and even to the average Jamaican.

In my personal life, education will sustain a sense of duty and pride in my achieving scholarly excellence as well as to defy the circumstances where I am an individual defined by address or status. The prospects of education also facilitate my meeting the demands of the Jamaican environment where intellectual rigor and competition are predominant. Most importantly, it is my opportunity where I, and many like me, are able to determine our own destiny to excel.

The word education is rooted in the Latin for “to lead out”. This notion of education can be deemed as the active catalyst in leading an individual or nation “out”, however my personal definition is “leading out of dire circumstances”. In my being the first to attend college, I am the growing epitome of a “leader” in the eyes of my grandmother, family and even the whole neighbourhood. Yes, they are the strong believers in the principle that education, specifically tertiary education is the remedy for Jamaica and its ills. They also concur with my perception that tertiary education will encourage my goal to be an “inspiration leader” and role model for others and myself.

My tertiary education has focused on Politics and my mind is filled with the potential for change. I am an advocate that it can fashion the act of breaking the old order of my beloved island to replace it with a new and improved Jamaica and give it the “fix” it requires. As President Obama said in his Labour Day speech “if one voice can fire up a room, it can fire up a city, a state or a nation”. My education has “fired me up” and in another reference to his speech “I’m ready to go”.

A tertiary education is prized and revered not just in the eyes of old but also the youths whose lives are darken with sour experiences of ignorance and injustice. As a tertiary graduate or individual, I can affect change in the economic pie re my innovative ideas. With my accumulation of knowledge, I will provide development to occur via new markets, greater services and a dynamic methodology to satisfy international and regional competitive demands.

Tertiary education facilitates exposure to free or independent thinking and diverse cultures on a sociological level. Some graduates contribute in the economic sphere, a tertiary scholar or graduate in Politics can radically alter the norms of our island home to better alternatives and impact poverty, corruption, crime/violence, gender discrimination, skin colour prejudices and a myriad of other adversities that afflict, this, my small and heavenly home. The arena of politics has been the inspiration, which has shaped me the most at university and will likely be my life’s cause. It is the area where I feel I can best repay, symbolically, if not always materially, the faith and confidence of my grandmother, my family and my neighbours. I can do no less.