MARSHA-GAY LAWRENCE, UWIDEF SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT 2015
It is my delight and a privilege this evening to express on behalf of myself and fellow scholarship recipients, my deepest gratitude for the sponsorship I received through the UWI Development and Endowment Fund, whose contribution enabled me to sit my exams and also reverse my status from being de-registered.
I am here tonight representing all, who like me, benefited from scholarships managed by the UWI Development and Endowment Fund.
While it has been the practice in the past for all student recipients to be present, this is not the case tonight. This year the UWI Development and Endowment Fund Scholarships will be incorporated in the University of the West Indies Ceremony for the Presentation of Student Awards; where all other UWI scholarships are awarded.
Nonetheless, it is my duty tonight to represent and speak on behalf of all those happy scholarship recipients who were fortunate enough to have received awards from the UWI Development and Endowment Fund for this academic year.
If I have never fought for anything else in my life, I know this: I have fought, and will continue to fight, for education. Because a mind without education is like a classroom with empty chairs.
I enrolled at MONA in 2010. Yes, it is a three year program but I have only just completed my degree in summer school 2015. For me to say my journey at UWI has been challenging would not suffice. However, along this journey I have become stronger and even more determined to achieve my goals in life.
I have been de-registered twice and had to take two leaves of absence because as much as I was determined to achieve a tertiary level education, the truth that lingered in me was this: “I cannot afford to be here.” Some people echoed:”You brought this on yourself” and stills others said “Work first then attend school after.”
But of all the voices in my head, one remained constant – my mother’s voice. She would always say to me “God is able”. My degree is as much hers as it is mine because of the faith she perpetually renewed in me.
There are a great few who invested in me and my education. And so I want to dedicate the second half of this testimony to the wonderful donors and of course, to the UWI Development and Endowment Fund. If you are entering the campus through the back gate, which most of us UWI students do, the UWIDEF building is on the left side next to the entrance. You may very well pass it without knowing it is there. (I know I did). For five (5) years I came and went through the back gate and little did I know that my saving grace was right before my face.
The UWIDEF organization brought to life a word which many of us think little of. That word is DONOR. This word simply refers to a person who gives. Over the years this word has taken on more of a medical meaning – someone giving blood, tissue, body part/organ, etc, so that someone else may live. We, the recipients, are here this evening because someone donated; someone gave us renewed life.
I do not believe there is a single person here this evening who can say they have never received a contribution from either a family member, friend or an organization. That contribution changed your life. I know it changed mine.
Representing a small sample of so many students who have had to, and are still fighting to achieve a tertiary level education, the UWIDEF has proven that hard work really does pay off in the end. Similar to an ailing patient waiting on a medical donor list, we, the fortunate recipients, have been on academic waiting lists for so long, hoping to receive that call or email, telling us that we were successful in receiving the scholarship.
So many other students continue to wait and so we who have received must make the most of this lifeline we have been given, hopeful that one day we can help those who are still waiting.
I’ll conclude by quoting Elaine Maxwell:
“Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force.”
As much as I adore that quote, the truth is, my successes in life are not an individual effort, but a collective effort.
Tonight I say we are the force. Thank you to my mother who is always praying for me, thank you to my friends who encourage me to never give up, thank you to my classmates whose notes I borrowed when I was blocked from the UWI Online Student Portal for non-payment of fees, thank you to the angels at the Office of Student Financing, especially Ms. Dickenson and Ms. Palmer, who introduced me to UWIDEF and assisted me with meal tickets and grants.
Lastly, a special thank you to the donors, your generosity as an immeasurable force reminding us that eventually dreams do come true.