The Story of their Lives

Thursday Life Food Awards Scholarship

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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There was no life challenge too insurmountable to recall for the seven candidates from the University of Technology's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, who vied for Food Awards scholarships and bursaries before an interview panel Monday afternoon inside the Jamaica Observer's executive boardroom suite. With the plush-carpeted, imposing mahogany-tabled boardroom space fraught with tense anticipation for the third-year university students who did their best to keep jangled nerves at bay, the panel headed by Observer Managing Director Danville Walker, Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards Chair Novia McDonald-Whyte and Observer Opinion Editor Miguel Thomas had rapid-fire questions for the candidates, who were quizzed individually, about a host of things — from culinary ambitions and financial travails, to feeding a gourmand palate of six on a $1,000-budget.

Also sitting in on the panel interview were Gaunette Sinclair Maragh, head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and her colleagues scholarship officer Pauline Madourie and Director of Student Financing Garcia McLennon.

Riveting stories abounded at every turn; from bursary recipient Damian Black proactively facing his depression head-on in spite of 2:00 am workshift wind-ups and heading home to a volatile community, all while self-funding his tuition without student loan assistance, to Clarendon-born Shanique Stephenson once dwelling in a cramped household of 16 persons and the annual struggle to finance her education which was once aided by her mother selling fried chicken back and chips, inspirational tales of survival and the students' collective hunger to chart meaningful paths moved the panel.

At the conclusion of the three-hour process, the panel's deliberations led to Jovianne Francis, Matthew Williams, Shanique Stephenson and Jasmine Wilson selected as the scholarship recipients while Damian Black, Geordan Ranger and Shanique Martin were awarded bursaries. The Observer's financial assistance to the seven recipients is valued in excess of $2 million, to partially or fully fund their final-year tuition costs.

“You really impressed us with your stories and journeys,” Walker, the lead on the interview panel, told the candidates. “So many of us in Jamaica worry about the future, but as long as we have young people like the ones in front of us, we will be fine as a country.”

Meanwhile, Food Awards Chair McDonald-Whyte called on the students to not forsake opportunities when granted. “We are expecting five-star and seven-star hotel properties in Jamaica. What that means is that customer service and culinary skills must be at an optimum. If we are positioning Jamaica as a destination for food, you have got to impress the tourists coming to Jamaica, as they have a choices,” she advised.

The Scholarship Awards were first introduced in 2002 by McDonald-Whyte — a former lecturer in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management — who utilises ticket sales from the annual staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards to assist academically sound but financial needy students in the culinary faculty.




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