Shevar Ellis: Possibility thinker

Career & Education

Shevar Ellis: Possibility thinker

Sunday, March 03, 2019

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JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation scholar Shevar Ellis knew he was destined for greatness.

So, rather than focus on his humble upbringing in the inner-city, financial obstacles, and death and grief, he aligned his thoughts and actions with where he wanted to go — university.

Today, he holds a degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Technology, Jamaica — the first in his family to access tertiary education.

The journey wasn't easy, but Ellis jumped the biggest hurdle when he won a scholarship from JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation to cover tuition. But there were other challenges — the daily expenses associated with transportation and meals, which hindered his attendance in some instances.

However, with a determination not to become another unfortunate statistic: a young man in the inner-city succumbing to a life of crime, Ellis repeatedly told himself that “The best way to achieve success is through education.”

Even as he struggled to overcome daily financial challenges during his tenure, Ellis experienced a loss of purpose, with the death of his mentor. His grades suffered and the fate of his academic pursuit hung in the balance, as his scholarship was in jeopardy (a condition is that recipients maintain an average of at least 'B' during the tenure of the award).

JMMB, which uses expressions of love, visioning, greatness, and possibility thinking to brand its culture, allowed him a chance to redeem himself. The foundation invited him to have an open conversation to explore the challenges that he was experiencing, in a bid to provide further support, if possible.

Kim Mair, CEO of the foundation explained that this redemptive approach is taken “to help to steer scholarship recipients toward achieving their goals and to understand any roadblocks they may have, instead of simply withdrawing the scholarship.” She adds, “I am happy with the outcome because, as a result of our partnership and approach, Shevar is on the path of creating history in his family and has the potential to create many other firsts in the life.”

“I was always a positive person, but the training session helped me to believe in myself more...(especially) as I saw other examples of persons who had lived (similar) experiences and are (now a success),” Ellis shared following the intervention.

“(If) I can do it, why can't you? Go to school, get certified (because) education will help you, no matter what,” he said by way of advising his peers.

The now-25-year-old Ellis who graduated in 2018 has his sights set on carving out a viable career in disaster management and mitigation, having developed a love for geography back in grade nine. His love for the field developed when he worked alongside his peers on a disaster risk reduction project funded by UK Aid, Canadian Bank of Development, and the United Nations (UN), while still a student, in 2017.

The project saw the university students producing two 3-D models of multi-disaster mapping of the area of Hillside, St Thomas, which was designed to strengthen communities against climate threats and natural hazards.

“The project was so well done, a member of the team even got an opportunity to present the project, on our behalf, at the CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) Conference in Barbados,” Ellis shared.

Although he was motivated by the financial rewards the project provided, it is the sense of accomplishment and teamwork that he finds most gratifying. Ellis that the experience of working with a team gave him a sense of satisfaction.

In his current role as physical planning coordinator for St Thomas, Ellis is excited to apply his theoretic knowledge, while also learning on the job.

His achievements have made his family, headed by a single mother, quite proud and have helped create a path of success for his two siblings, the younger of which is looking to follow in his footsteps by attending UTech in the new academic year.

While in his final year at UTech, Shevar became an ambassador for the Student Affairs unit, sharing with other students the benefits the unit offered, such as financing lunch and transportation, which he himself had thereby easing his financing burden.

His volunteerism also extended to his own community, where the former Camperdown High School track athlete and former rugby player for The Seaview Gardens Rugby Football Club helped teach rugby to children at Elite Basic School. He proudly reveals that during his tenure as coach, the 'little leaguers' made it to the finals of the Tiny Tots Basic School Rugby Competition organised by the Jamaica Rugby Union for two consecutive years.

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