PURSUING your goals when all the odds seem stacked against you can be difficult. However, 21-year-old Dominique Stanford is adamant about breaking barriers in her pursuit of excellence. Currently a pharmacy student at the University of Technology (UTech), Stanford is a continuing recipient of the Angela Chang Memorial Scholarship from the Fontana Foundation.
Hailing from the inner-city community of Cockburn Gardens, commonly known as Cockburn Pen, Stanford was determined not to let where she came from dictate her future.
"I grew up in a single-parent household with my mother. She had me when she was a teenager, and she did a lot of odd jobs, so it was financially challenging for me and my siblings. Despite this she did not want me to miss a day of school, especially since she didn't get the chance to finish high school," shared the aspiring pharmacist.
After completing her tenure at Merl Grove High School, Stanford's dreams were placed on pause after encountering financial difficulties. This forced her to take a gap year before continuing her studies at UTech.
"It was really difficult, not just financially, but mentally, because I felt like everyone was moving on with their lives," she shared. "To pass the time, I decided to enrol in a construction programme my community was offering and I saved the stipend from that to pay my commitment fee."
Though her journey was not going exactly as planned, the detour allowed her to learn skills she otherwise wouldn't have, and it gave her time to strategise her next financial steps.
"My mother has been unemployed for the past five years and I also have other siblings, so I didn't want her to feel too pressured. I didn't want to take another year off. So after I paid the commitment, I immediately weighed my options and started applying for scholarships. Luckily, I was successful," she recounted.
The turning point for Stanford's academic career came when she became a recipient of Fontana's Angela Chang Memorial Scholarship. "Earning the Fontana scholarship has been life-changing for me. Taking the gap year was very frustrating and getting the scholarship afforded me the opportunity to truly pursue my dreams of helping and changing the lives of others. I really want to get out of the inner city and create a better life and future for myself and I'm driven by that every single day. The scholarship has allowed me to focus on my studies and my passion for volunteering without worrying as much about my financial situation. It's a great feeling," Stanford said, smiling.
To anyone who would like to apply for scholarships, the aspiring pharmacist urges them not to let any challenge or fear dictate their future.
"I believe that you can truly achieve anything you want once you believe that you can. Never limit yourself or let others limit you. The sky's the only limit. It only matters what you have to offer. Apply for all the scholarships you can, you never know what the outcome will be."