First Regional awards $3 million in scholarships
First Regional Co-operative Credit Union which has been offering assistance to students in the north eastern parishes throughout the years will be forking out some $3 million this year in scholarships, bursaries and book grants this year, as it incorporates recipients outside of this area.
And although it was no easy feat selecting this year's awardees, given how well the applicants performed, especially in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), several students from St Ann and St Mary along with children of workers in the hospitality sector were awarded at a ceremony held at the Hibiscus Lodge Hotel in Ocho Rios recently.
GSAT scholarships named in honour of the credit union founders in St Ann and St Mary were presented to students in these parishes along with the new First Regional Hospitality Scholarship.
The Leyland Walker and Reynold Smith Scholarships were awarded to St Ann students Zorian Clarke and Jacian Evans, respectively, who will both be attending St Hilda's High school. The Herbert Ming scholarship was awarded to Shae-Duvaugh Ellis from St Mary who will be attending Campion College. The First Regional scholarship was awarded to Rianna Tyme who will also be attending Campion College, while Serena Norman who will be attending Montego Bay High won the recently established First Regional Hospitality Scholarship. The scholarships will last for the students' first five years of high school.
Director and chairman of the scholarship awards ceremony James Walsh said, at any given year, there are 20 students in the high school system being financed by the organisation.
In addition to the scholarships awarded, several book grants were also given to GSAT students who were not scholarship awardees. In addition three students studying at the tertiary level, Michael Campbell, Patricia McLeod Walters and Tashana Allen, were presented with bursaries.
Divisional manager at First Regional Adford Billings said the credit union "seeks opportunities to assist students in the parishes of St Mary and St Ann" where its branches are located.
"Since last year, the credit union has extended these opportunities to children of parents in the hospitality industry (with which we merged in July 2013), and that means that we are now able to assist students all over Jamaica."
Billings said awarding of the scholarships, bursaries and book grants annually forms part of the credit union's corporate social responsibility of giving back to its members and the communities it operates in.
"First Regional believes strongly in empowerment through education," he added.
Mico University College student and resident of Higgin Land in St Ann Tashana Allen, responding on behalf of the recipients, said the financial assistance at both the secondary and tertiary level was well appreciated as it came at a time when many are faced with economic hardships.
"We are indeed fortunate and extremely happy to be a part of this organisation," she said.
Allen noted that more organisations which are committed to Jamaica's education system, are needed.
"I am so happy to come to the credit union and get that scholarship offered to my granddaughter," Delores Millen, grandmother of Zorian Clarke said.
"I feel really good because it was really difficult for me and this is a great deal," Natalee Johnson, mother of awardee Jacian Evans noted.
Andrea Peddy, mother of the hospitality scholarship awardee from Bamboo, Hanover, was also excited. "I feel really good," she said.
Member of Parliament for North West St Ann Dr Dayton Campbell, who was guest speaker at the ceremony, encouraged the awardees to choose their role models and mentors wisely.
"Don't idolise rubbish," he told them.
"In relation to our morals and our value system I want to say to young persons that we need to stop idolising what I call rubbish. We find that persons are way more intrigued by Vybz Kartel as opposed to a pastor; when I was growing up a role model in the community would probably be a good male teacher, a good pastor, a good businessman or somebody like that; now a role model in Jamaica is a musician, somebody who is singing a lot of lewd lyrics and somebody who is bleaching their face, somebody who is wearing their pants just above their knees and we're wondering what is going on," he said.