WASHINGTON DC, USA — The 2012 Professor Gordon Shirley Book Scholarship, an initiative of the Washington DC-based Jamaica Nationals Association (JNA), has been awarded to eight students of Jamaican heritage attending colleges in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.
This year's grant recipients are Nirica Clarke, Kimberley Curtis and Shanique Fletcher of Howard University; Tressan Gordon of Virginia State University; Camille Clennon Hilmy of Prince George's Community College; Raquel Lowe of Mary Baldwin College; Lloyd Thompson Taylor of Hood College; and Sharon Vernon of Strayer University.
Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie delivered the keynote address at JNA's Annual Student Reception and Book Scholarship Awards, at the Silver Spring Civic Center on Saturday. He commended JNA for creating the Gordon Shirley Scholarship Award.
“This is an outstanding tribute to Professor Shirley's advocacy, commitment, contribution to the diaspora and support for students of Jamaican heritage in their quest to further their education,” said Ambassador Vasciannie of the scholarship programme named for the former Jamaican ambassador to the United States (2004-2007), who is currently the principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus in Jamaica.
Ambassador Vasciannie described education as vital because of its instrumental value in how it links one to the rest of society.
“It is of great value; education is certainly the key,” he argued. “It is key because of its instrumental value, but also because it positions individuals to take on leadership roles in their communities. It is also the key to personal development, it helps you develop your ideas, formulate your arguments and defend your views.”
The Jamaican envoy noted that though education is instrumental to the development of the individual and country in general, there are some important things whic, by itself, it cannot do.
“Education will not make you a more moral person; education will not give you the monopoly on values; education will not tell you how to be a person of integrity; it will not make you kind, neither will it make you sensitive to the needs and interests of others,” he said.
Stressing that “all of those things are as important as education”, he charged the awardees to: “As you acquire more education, you must remember that education did not instill in you those values. You acquire those values from home, from church, from your family, friends, and peers. As educated persons, you must ensure that you keep these values and that you pass them on to those that are around you.”
The ambassador argued that the time has come for us to open up the doors of education as widely as possible, so that persons from all walks of life can move up in society and give themselves a chance at a better life.
In his remarks, JNA Education Committee Chairman Dr Agorom Dike said the education committee is aware of the challenges faced by many international students from Jamaica, particularly related to F1 visas. He noted that these visas do not allow students to access federal grants, student loans or work permits. As a result, JNA decided to award the greater part of the grant to students from Jamaica based on high academic excellence, outstanding community service and financial need.
Dr Dike said: “This year, JNA decided to award eight grants instead of four.” He pointed out that the association’s student outreach programme coordinates with the Embassy of Jamaica to facilitate opportunities for fellowships and mentoring relationships between “our university and college students and our Jamaican professional and diplomatic community within the Washington metropolitan area”.
The chairman said the programme was meant to bridge the gap for the many Jamaican students who are financially challenged while studying here in the USA and in Jamaica.