Observer awards 25 scholarships to mark Silver Anniversary

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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Just over 500 people sat and listened in awe as Cherries Wiles told her story of extreme poverty, embarrassment, and deregistration from The University of the West Indies (UWI) that fuelled her determination to eventually return to the Mona campus to pursue a degree in journalism.

Wiles earned a standing ovation after her moving address Tuesday night during the Jamaica Observer Silver Awards banquet at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston where the newspaper marked the milestone with the awarding of 25 scholarships to tertiary students.

The scholarships were awarded to 10 UWI students, five students from the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), and 10 children of Observer staff members currently in their second or third year at university.

After Observer Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart announced the scholarships awarded by his father, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the newspaper's chairman, Wiles, in an address punctuated by applause, said thanks on behalf of the UWI recipients.

“Coming from a poor family, it was financially challenging for me to pay for my first year of university, and by my second semester in 2017 I was deregistered from classes,” she said. “My story, though unique and personal, is similar to that of my colleagues for whom this scholarship has provided hope and a peace of mind going into the 2018/2019 academic year,” she added.

Wiles said that the stories of the students who, without the scholarships, might have had to forego a tertiary education, carry a common thread of challenges.

“Challenges like these often force students like us to put down their pens and no longer be the author of our own stories, and even if they are strong enough to hold the pen they allow these challenges to dictate the type of story that is written,” she said.

“So, Mr Stewart, and everyone at the Jamaica Observer, we the recipients do not take lightly this opportunity you have given us to take up that pen and be the author of our own stories. …To Mr Stewart and everyone at the Jamaica Observer, we salute the work you do and we thank you for giving our pens more ink to keep on writing,” Wiles said.

Alicia Brown, who responded on behalf of her UTech colleagues, also thanked Stewart and the Observer for the investment in their education.

Earlier, the younger Stewart said that one of the most important roles of the Observer is to give back to those less fortunate. He pointed to statistics which show that fewer than 20 per cent of the students that start at the tertiary level get to go to higher level education.

“…Everybody knows that education is the way out; everybody knows that education is the way forward… fewer and fewer engineers are advancing to a higher level than we have seen in the past. We have to move the country from a baseline of cane cutters and keep touch with the IT generation and the technological advancements of the world for our people,” Stewart said.

The 25 scholarships, he said, represented his father's gift to Jamaica which has supported the newspaper for the 25 years of its existence.

Earlier, Observer Executive Editor - Publications Vernon Davidson, who has been with the company since February 1, 1993, and Display Sales Executive Beverley Clarke Johnson, who joined on September 28, 1993, were presented with long-service awards by “Butch” Stewart, after which awards were presented to 25 companies that have been advertising with the newspaper since its first publication on March 7, 1993.

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