WHEN Shanari McCarthy was eight-years-old, he struggled so profoundly with basic reading and writing, there were times he believed there was no hope for him.
At age nine, he was still the same. When he was 10, not much had changed. Even at age 11, very little was different. He was still struggling to recognise and write the simplest of words, despite the best efforts by his teachers and family.
He just would not learn.
It wasn't until one of his teachers finally recognised that something was wrong and decided to take him aside and work with him, that there was even any hint of improvement. He and four others from his school, Vaz Preparatory, were taken to be professionally assessed. It was found that he had a learning disability that prevented him from mastering basic reading and writing.
His teacher, however, was not dissuaded and daily, McCarthy was made to stay after school while she taught him phonics.
"Everyday after school, I went to study phonics and build my vocabulary and learn things I didn't know before," he said.
Despite the progress he made working with this teacher, Ms Reid, when it was time to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), he was told he was still not ready. He would have to wait until the following year. Again, he was back with Ms Reid, who continued to work diligently with him.
"I remember days just taking up the book and reading and reading, just to understand, and I was underlining words that I didn't understand and having to go to the dictionary to find a word so I could use the word back in a sentence," McCarthy said, describing what is normally a manageable activity, but which, for him, was really difficult.
It was a wonderful day when he realised that, finally, it had all paid off, as he passed for St George's College the following year when he sat the GSAT.
The 12-year-old McCarthy seems a far cry from the now 25-year-old businessman, jeweller, creative advisor and promoter who took a moment to share his story with Career & Education recently.
McCarthy now co-owns the business Native Jewellery with his uncle, which they started a year ago.
Together, they make handcrafted jewellery — earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches — and have also started to make sunglasses. They use material such as wood, coconut shells and bamboo.
"We find things by the river side, we find things in the bushes. Anything natural, but we are taking it from being a culture where it's a rastaman kind of style. We are taking it to everybody, so every age group, any culture can relate to it and purchase it," he said, indicating that they are targeting the tourism areas.
He said he learnt to make jewellery by working with his uncle, who studied the craft abroad and together they perfected the type of jewellery they are going for.
McCarthy also operates M2M Communication, which is a break off from his father's cable company Sauce, which was bought by Columbus Business Solutions some years ago.
Now, M2M Communications sells computers, and installs closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) and other security devices for companies in the Corporate Area, Portland and St Catherine. This, he said, he learnt to do from his time spent with his father who would regularly take him and his older brother to work with him.
In addition to these hands-on jobs, McCarthy said he does party promotion, and event planning. He also works with JAE Magazine, a social online magazine, as a creative advisor.
Despite a heavy work schedule, McCarthy is not fazed and he is in his final year at the University of Technology where he is studying to be a teacher.
"Its all about time management. You just have to put your focus to it and know that you have that to do and I try to have a good schedule. Once you have that locked, you can do it," said the young man, who also noted that he is from a family of business-minded people.
Although he has managed to come this far from the days when he struggled over the simplest words, McCarthy admits, "I won't tell you any lie, even now I still have a little problem but as I am older and I get to read more, I can deal with the situation better".
One thing is sure for the young man who graduated with five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and two Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects from high school: He is determined to succeed.
"I use the same focus to do everything I do. I hate losing and I hate being looked down at. [I have] a determination to become a winner; the determination to succeed, so I just put the work in and know that if I want to do it, then I have to just do it to the finish," he said.
"It's only you [who] can help yourself. When you are educated, it always will be with you. Nobody can take it from you," he advised others who may experience similar challenges.
"That was my drive."