November 2016

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There is a plaque in my home which reads, “Nothing worth having is won easily”.

I grew up in a farming community in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. My father is a retired Agricultural Extension Officer, now farmer and my mother is a housewife. I was raised in a Seventh-Day Adventist household with two older sisters where strong Christian principles and faith were instilled from an early age. We were taught to, “place God first and everything else will follow” and to, “never take anything in life for granted.” I realised and treasured the power of these words more dearly during the course of my undergraduate studies.

From my parents, I learnt how to overcome challenges as I observed from their experiences. They have always tried their best to provide for our family within their means, through hard-work, toil, selflessness and honesty, they ensured their children were cared for, educated and satisfied. Even if they themselves were not – they never complained. Theirs was a dream for their children to achieve what they were unable to.

After acceptance for my first choice into the UWI, I was uncertain that I would be able to start the programme. To place another financial burden on the home would be an overwhelming sacrifice. But, after such a faith-testing period of prayer and emotional rollercoasters - God came through.

I realised this afforded opportunity was definitely not by chance. I could not take this for granted. Away from home for the first time and on my own, I learnt to grow up quickly. Responsibility, independence, sacrifice, focus and hard-work became second nature as I began this degree. If I didn’t do it for myself, then who will?

During my course of study many challenges were faced, but there were also memories to last a lifetime! As one of my close friends puts it, “This is what we signed up for. Complaining never helps anything.” I befriended many individuals who with their own interesting personalities enriched my tenure at The UWI. Sharing memorable experiences through teaching, counselling, advising, or simply enjoying each other’s company - we strengthened our classroom friendships to lifetime connections. This was paramount in maintaining our sanity.

Trinidad and Tobago provided a home away from home. Mingling with peers, staff of The UWI, and members of the general public, I gained a deeper appreciation for diversity, new cultures and walks of life. I am grateful to my church family in Trinidad for their kindness, support and encouragement in strengthening and keeping my faith renewed and grounded.

The opportunity to obtain a university education has humbled me. It has made me realise that this achievement is more than self-development. Rather, it further qualifies me with the task of making a positive difference in the lives with whom I interact and to provide service to my country and society not only in my proposed career choice, but holistically as a person.

My graduation experience officially commemorated the completion of my BSc degree. For me, it was a dedication to God and my parents. It was a blessing to have them share it with me. It was also the last time seeing some of the friends made throughout my undergraduate journey. To have been chosen as the Valedictorian was truly humbling. It motivated me deliver to a passionate address that would resonate with and touch the hearts of not just my colleagues, but any member of the extended viewing audience.