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Dressmaker's son surmounts 'bumps' on road to success

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 10, 2014    

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"DON'T worry." These are the words young Andre Anderson would often tell his mother when things got difficult financially.

Now 26 years old and an assistant director of admissions at Northern Maine Community College, a brand partner with Nerium International, a certified personal trainer, and a licenced soccer coach, the Jamaican is determined to give back in any way he can. In fact, ultimately, he wants to be a philanthropist and has given himself another three to five years to get to a position where he can start helping others.

His mother Lois Whyte, a dressmaker, admitted that she did not worry because she knew her son's drive and determination would help him achieve his goals. She admitted though that it was not easy.

"In the beginning it was much easier, but as life went on and other siblings came in, then it became more difficult financially," Whyte told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview. "But he had a perspective in life, he had a goal and that goal was to really achieve what he wanted to.

"So in spite of our financial problems, he would say to me, 'don't worry', I will go through," Whyte shared.

Anderson's mother said that she did her part as a mother, but it was her son's faith and dedication that has brought him this far.

Originally from Coley Mountain in rural Manchester, Anderson attended Santa Cruz Preparatory School before moving on to Munro College where he played football.

"When I was a child I wanted to become a meteorologist, but as I grew older, deep down, I wanted to play football professionally," Anderson told the Sunday Observer. "But I was also smart enough to know that if that did not happen for whatever reason, I wanted to be in a career where I can help people."

While at Munro College, Anderson said that he did well in the daCosta Cup competition, making it to the quarter-finals twice and to the Ben Francis final where Munro lost to Cornwall College. He also captained the 2007 team.

It was through football and with the help of the Jonathan Hibbert Foundation that Anderson was able to attain a scholarship to attend the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) in the United States of America.

"The foundation helped immensely due to the fact that they organised for the coaches to come and scout for talent and to offer scholarships to those who qualified," Anderson explained. "If the tournament was not in place to do that, I definitely would not have had the resources to afford college."

However, instead of being awarded an athletic scholarship, Anderson was only awarded an academic scholarship because, according to him, the money allocated for athletics had already been dispensed when he started school in 2007.

"I was not going to allow a 'little bump' in the road to deter me from my dreams," the Munro old boy declared. "When I arrived in Fort Kent on August 13, 2007, I decided that for me to get where I want, I was going to have to be willing to do what no one else was willing to (do)," said Anderson.

He said that he met with his coach to see how he could qualify for an athletic scholarship the following year, to help ease the financial burden.

"What he told me was very simple and somewhat mundane, as any coach would probably tell a player in my situation the same thing; he said, 'we will assess this year's performance and see if any money will be available for you next year'," Anderson continued. "I said 'that sounds good' and left with one goal in mind -- perform up to a standard where he will have no choice but to offer me an athletic scholarship next year."

So both on and off the field for that year Anderson displayed exemplary work ethic and discipline.

"True to from, I probably put in more extra time working on myself as a player than anyone else on my team," Anderson recalled. "I was willing to get up early and do extra training, both in the gym and on the field, with my skills, but not only that, I was willing to stay extra after training and do another session in the gym at night too, when most would call it a day.

"The same went for my studies, after all, my studies came first," said Anderson. "Needless to say I had an excellent year, both on and off the field with the team and was awarded an athletic scholarship the following year."

Each year after that, Anderson said that his scholarship amount increased because he continued to get better. In his first year, Anderson was named the leading scorer in the United States for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics division with 27 goals and 15 assists in 21 games.

Anderson also worked as a residence assistant, which allowed him free accommodation on campus, and during the summer he worked three jobs on campus to maximise his income-earning potential, all of which went towards his school expenses.

"In life you have to make sacrifices and something has to pay the price for success," Anderson told the Sunday Observer. "It was tough and I only got the chance to visit Jamaica twice throughout my four years of college, so I could give myself a shot at success."

However, looking back, he has no regrets.

"It was all worth it," said Anderson.

His dreams of playing football professionally were never realised, however.

"My first professional tryout was with the Charlotte Eagles in North Carolina in 2011. On the first day of tryouts I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and was out for the next eight months," explained Anderson. "I wasn't ready to give up after that because I did surgery and was pretty much fully recovered in five months.

"I was supposed to go to Sweden for another tryout but before I could even leave for that tryout I dislocated my shoulder playing football to stay in shape to get ready for the tryout," Anderson continued. "At

that point I was not going to do surgery again to be out for another year, so I decided I would put my education to use."

The UMFK hall of famer's mother is elated about her son's achievements, but said she expected it.

"I am really happy because based on his upbringing and the way how he viewed life from he was young, I can see he actually achieved most of what he said he wanted," said Whyte, who described herself as the breadwinner for her family. "Because of the drive that he had and I realised from he was small and... there was just this guide to his life where I didn't really have to worry."

Anderson has two sisters, one 19 and the other 15 years old, and a brother by his father's side.

"My family members back in Jamaica were the driving force behind all my achievements as I wanted to be successful so I could help take care of my mom and sisters, especially for them to go to school and that they have the necessities for school and at home," Anderson explained to this newspaper. "I think they coped okay but for me I missed out on so much of them growing up because I went to Munro and I stayed on campus for most of my years and then I left for college right after.

"It was tough for me but through all the struggles, the goal was to make life easier for them," Anderson continued.

When the Sunday Observer spoke to Anderson's mother last Tuesday, she was visiting him in the United States along with one of his sisters. Anderson also has a son and a fiancée.

With a burning desire to help others achieve their goals, Anderson said his philosophy is to "show up consistently with desire, faith and integrity". He told the Sunday Observer that one of his lifelong goals is to return to Jamaica and give back in as many ways as he can. But for now, he is working to get to the point where he can start giving back.

"As long as you have a vision, a goal and a purpose, there's no limit to what one can do," Anderson said. "No matter how you look at it, there's always 24 hours in a day.

"As an assistant director of admissions, my job entails recruiting, helping students through the college admissions process and making decisions on if they are college ready," Anderson divulged. "Nerium International is an amazing relationship marketing skin care company, the goal is to try and help to make people's lives better through the opportunity and the products the company has to offer.

"As a certified personal trainer, I strive to help individuals achieve their health and wellness goals by guiding them through specific fitness programmes based on what their goals and needs are," he continued. As a soccer coach I love to help kids and young adults develop their skills both on and off the field. Sports on a whole can be such a great avenue to develop teamwork, responsibility, discipline, among other great values."

So despite a shortfall of "a whopping US$10,000" after receiving only an academic scholarship in 2007, Anderson, with the assistance of family members and through a loan, was able to complete his first year of university and never looked back.

"What I figured out as I got older was that a person's outlook on life and their experiences have to do with ones mindset," shared Anderson. "I heard a saying once that has stuck with me, 'when the dream is big enough, the facts don't count'."

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