Keneetha Ferguson on a mission after winning scholarship

Staff reporter

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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KENEETHA Ferguson is the first student to be awarded the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) Coy Family Scholarship.

The Coy Family Scholarship is new to AFJ, a non-profit entity which has contributed millions to local organisations for the past 36 years. Ferguson received US$4,650 to finance her tuition for her final year in pharmacology at The University of the West Indies.

Born and raised in Enfield, St Mary, the bubbly 22-year-old told the Jamaica Observer that she has always had academic success.

“Since my days of infancy in basic school, I strive for excellence, always doing well.”

But the pharmacology student was not just a book worm, she excelled in other areas. As a student at St Mary High School Ferguson was heavily involved in extra-curricular activities and held positions on the executive body of these clubs.

“When I went to high school I decided to do the sciences. I also did art and Spanish. In high school I was the president of the Art Club, secretary of the Science Club, and president of the Spanish Club. I was involved in quite a number of co-curricular activities. I did a little sports. I was into everything. I was even a part of the quiz team at one time,” she revealed.

Ferguson believes that it was her involvement in these activities, along with her school records, why she was awarded the scholarship, which she said has improved her financial situation immensely.

“It means everything. It has helped me a lot in covering my tuition and other school expenses, because my mom and my grandma are my only source of dependency. My father died when I was in grade nine. It was really a good push. I borrowed the students loan for the past two years so it took off one year off me.”

“I'm from a lower-class family. I would say poor because my mom... she wasn't working. She just got a steady job. She's a hospital attendant at the Annotto Bay Hospital. My grandma was a craft vendor. I have an auntie abroad and whenever she can she helps me. Sometimes people might help me out with my rent,” she said.

Ferguson told the Sunday Observer that before she got the scholarship she would sometimes worry how her living expenses would be covered.

“Really and truly, each month I didn't know where my rent was coming from, and even food and so. My mom has three other children. She has to take care of them as well. What I tried to do to help [was] to go on the work and travel programme last year.”

She managed to borrow money from individuals to go on the student work and travel programme. Thankfully, she was able to make more than the money she borrowed. When she was informed that she had received the scholarship, Ferguson said she made a conscious decision to set aside the extra cash that she made from working overseas.

Ferguson told the Sunday Observer that the day a representative informed her of the good news she got very emotional.

“I broke down in tears. My friend was there. I got the call from the office of finance. She said: 'You are the recipient of the AFJ Coy family scholarship.' I was just shocked, I was just lost for words,” Ferguson said, laughing as she recalled her initial reaction to the news.

“I was just really happy. Even now water is in my eyes because it is so competitive to get a scholarship. So, being chosen, I am just ecstatic and extremely grateful.”

What she is most grateful for is that the financial pressure is much less for her mother.

“A tremendous burden has been lifted off her. Normally she would have to send whatever little she has for me to buy food. Sometimes I go over on the weekends to see if I can get any foodstuff from country.

“I don't really have to call and say mommy I need anything. I felt so good to take off some of the burden off her. So she is now better able to send my brothers and sister to school. My grandfather is sick and she is his only child. She has to be caring for him now. That little she used to give me, she can use to help him.”

With the money saved from last year's travels, Ferguson hopes to go on the programme again to finish paying off her debts to the persons who lent her money.

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