December 2018

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“He represented the best that East Port of Spain had to offer,” said an outgoing minister of government. The line could easily describe Kareem Marcelle, a young man who has set aside his own turbulent life to serve others in the East Port of Spain region and who, because of his activism, has earned the Makandal Daaga Scholarship to study Law at The UWI, St. Augustine Campus this academic year.

Kareem is the last of four children for his mother and father who respectively earned $700 fortnightly as a kindergarten teacher, and $1,500 monthly working in the market. “But we were rich in morals and good values,” he says.

He recalled that in Standard Four, just before the start of the new school year, his father said quite suddenly, that he was going to the US for three months. With two children in secondary school and two in primary school, emotional and financial upheaval ensued. His two older brothers stopped school to take jobs to help provide for the five of them. It came to light later that his father was not returning. Unknown to them, he had a wife and she had sent for him.

Kareem moved through Sacred Heart Boys R.C. to Daniels Community College, which went into receivership shortly after he started, making his hard to come by books and one shirt abruptly obsolete. He was transferred to Trinity College in Maraval, where, in spite of the choppy start he became president of the debate club and the 2012 National Youth Parliamentarian.

At home, he began to get involved in the life of the community. He is still the PRO for the Beetham Gardens Village Council, which organizes inter-community sports and cultural competitions aimed at uniting factions in the area. For three months (June-August) every year, young ladies who enter the queen show are trained not just to walk on a stage, but also to be role models, and the netball and football competitions end with a grand family day. Kareem is also the PRO for the Positive Impact Organization, another community-based initiative that provides mentorship and counseling services for schools in the area without guidance counselors.

Another community outreach organization Kareem is part of is BEYOND, which is the Beetham Estate Youth Outreach Network Development. He is the Youth and Education Officer and assists in running after-school programmes, one of which organizes for students to complete their SBAs.

“It’s really easy not to hand in SBAs, the cost of a colour print is one dollar a page, plus the cost of trips to Internet cafes. When you hand it in and the teacher marks on it, where is more money coming from to re-print a whole project? Many children from this area do not have access to these resources, so they do not hand in SBAs. This was my struggle too. I know,” he says.

Because these factors are the reality for children from the area, volunteers, usually graduates of the programme, come back and help current students stay on track to handing in SBAs, frequently helping with the cost of printing. BEYOND also helps annually by gifting 25 families with completed booklist items that include uniforms – the scarcity of which is also familiar to him.

How does a self-made successful young man deal with the society-imposed stigma attached to people from the Beetham? Kareem: “The bad elements in my community represent 1% of the people who live there. Most people are law-abiding and hard-working citizens. And personally, I try to tell people where I am from early! I think I am a good example of a Beetham resident and I am not running away from it.”

He wants to be an attorney-at-law as he sees law as the foundation of his community, the place that has filled gaps in his family life and where he continues to thrive.

Every year he personally hosts a children’s Christmas party for about 1,500 on Christmas Day, as he knows “what is it like to not have a gift to go outside with on Christmas morning among other children.” Kareem seems motivated to give and to do by all the deficits he experienced in his earlier years. As PRO for the Beetham Gardens Village Council he is currently organizing the area’s first community career fair, which will come off in November.

Kareem was a facilities assistant at NIDCO for the three years prior to winning the scholarship. He has since relinquished the position for a combination of reading for his Law degree and continuing to work in his community. It is really fitting that this young, bright star wins the first offer of the Makandal Daaga Scholarship in Law.

For more on the application guidelines visit Applications for this scholarship close on May 7, 2018. Applicants must also satisfy the matriculation requirements of The University of the West Indies and must simultaneously apply to the Faculty of Law by May 31st, 2018. For more information visit call 662-2002 ext.82039, 82040; email: