Bay Farm and biochem - Alexandra Dixon's quest for success

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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Imagine growing up in a community awash with negative influences — the replicating imagery of teenage mothers among them. For 22-year-old Alexandra Dixon, and countless other Jamaicans, this is not hard to imagine — it is their reality.

But Dixon, the 2018-2019 recipient of the National Baking Company Foundation (NBCF) scholarship from The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Endowment Fund, has managed to escape becoming a victim of those circumstances, and has instead propelled herself to academic excellence despite the many challenges presented by growing up in the Bay Farm Road area of St Andrew.

“My mother has always been there backing me to go after my education. She warned me not to become a pawn of my community. That was the drive I needed,” Dixon told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

She is a former student of Hagley Park Preparatory and Meadowbrook High School.

“At Hagley Park Prep, I was shy and withdrawn; I didn't have many friends. I wouldn't say I was the smartest [because I] didn't get the highest grades, but then my mother started to push me. In high school, I started to work harder, and with my mother behind me, I started to become more sociable and this served me well as my grades also improved,” she shared.

It was at Meadowbrook High that she excelled, later earning a place at The UWI where she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry. Dixon, who concedes that the field is challenging, says it provides her with much mental stimulation and has taught her the value of time management — especially how to balance school, church and family — as well as the value of a strong support system.

“To overcome obstacles you need to have a strong support system,” she said. “Recently, my grandmother passed and I had exams [but] because I had my friends and my mother I remained encouraged so I could [continue] studying.”

Dixon shared that one of the keys to her success is staying grounded. Every third Sunday, she and her mother visit a girls' home in their community as she hopes to inspire the girls to pursue education, be self-sufficient, and have faith in God.

“I think it is important to serve as an inspiration to others and to let people know that others care because some of them at the girls' home are really down because they think that life is against them and there is no one for them. So when you go, and talk and interact and provide some level of assistance, they begin to realise there is hope. Then you are able to push them, the same way my mother did it for me,” the young woman told Career & Education.

The National Baking Company Foundation scholarship will cover Dixon's final year of university.

A generous church sister was assisting her with the tuition for the first two years, but she was unable to support her final year due to ill health.

By then, the application window for the Students' Loan Bureau had closed, Dixon explained, so she had to look for other sources. She knew her mother would not be able to foot the bill so, although she was unsuccessful in her two previous scholarship applications, shewrote to the UWI Endowment Fund. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I was excited and at first, I couldn't believe it...I was shocked...taken aback! But I was really, really excited...overwhelmed!” she shrieked. “Thank you, a big thank you, [National] for this opportunity because without it I would not be finishing my final year.”

Dixon urges young people like herself, especially girls, to go after their dreams.

“Don't doubt yourself! With self-doubt you have already failed,” she advised.

The National Baking Company Foundation award is available through the University of the West Indies Endowment Fund for students in their second year of university, who are Jamaican, with a minimum GPA of 3.5, have verifiable financial need, and demonstrate leadership qualities, internship, volunteerism and social involvement. The award covers an entire year of tuition, books and incidental expenses.


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