Southside’s scholar
Latoya Richards Franklin is a Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship PhD candidate
Latoya Richards Franklin (left) is awarded her scholarship certificate by Dr Diana Thorburn, director, research, Caribbean Policy Research Institute.

GROWING up in Southside, Kingston, an inner-city community associated with crime and violence, Latoya did not let negative stereotypes deter her academic aspirations. Instead, she has long been excelling since she attended Holy Family Primary School.

The 39-year-old said she has always been intrinsically motivated by the thirst for more knowledge and policy change. In pursuit of this, she applied for and was awarded her first tertiary scholarship through the Ministry of Education's Emancipation Scholarship to read for a degree in economics.

She was also a recipient of the UK-based Thomas De La Rue Scholarship in 2005, which offered her the opportunity to pursue a master's in economics. She is now one of two candidates set to pursue a doctoral degree through the 2022 Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship Programme in the thematic area of economic development policy.

Richards Franklin attributed her many achievements to the support she continues to receive from her family while trying to balance various aspects of her life and being present for her younger siblings.

"I have been married for 11 years, with a son who is seven years old, and I pretty much try to be a good wife and a good mother while balancing life," she shared.

Mom would have been extremely happy

"I am the firstborn for my mommy. I have two brothers and two sisters. My mommy is not here anymore, she passed suddenly at the age of 48 in July of 2014. It's something that I think has impacted me the greatest of anything in my life."

Richards Franklin told the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service that dealing with her mother's death was very hard for her and it demotivated her.

"I'll tell you the truth, when I realised I got the award (and it came home to me), I knew in myself that these are the things she celebrated. That is the type of mother I had. She celebrated me…she always did."

While reflecting on the impact her mother has had on her, Richards Franklin said, "When it comes on to education, I think for her, based on how she was brought up and the fact that she didn't get the education she wanted, she valued education. So as a young girl you would always hear, 'Take up your book.' So that has kept my desire to keep learning and I knew if she was here, the level of celebration that she would have given to me, nobody could give to me."

She expressed that she knows her mother would have been extremely proud that she is a recipient of the 2022 Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship Programme.

"I remember just before coming to the award ceremony, I just sat down in my bathroom and I just sat there and cried because this is such an important moment for me. My mother would have pushed me on… but, at first, when she passed, I wasn't thinking about my studies. The drive and interest in doing a PhD started some time ago but not immediately after her passing because I was so broken," she said while indicating that her mother would always save her accomplishments and share them with everyone.

First in her family to pursue a PhD

To be selected for the scholarship to pursue the PhD means a lot not only to Richards Franklin but to the rest of her family, especially because she is the first to ever pursue such studies.

"So far I have persons in my family who have completed their first degree and maybe have plans to do a master's degree, but no one, as far as I know, has contemplated or started the process of doing a PhD," she said.

She reminisced that her mother was the disciplinarian in the household that kept her in line and out of the negative influences that plagued her Central Kingston community.

She said from early on her mother made it clear that even though she was "from the ghetto" she could not "behave like the ghetto". In fact, because of this, she was disliked by many since she did not sound and act like her peers and they often classified her as being "stush", a Jamaican slang for someone that acts superior, stuck up, or conceited.

Now is the time for an upgrade

Richards Franklin, who's currently employed at the Ministry of Justice, said she applied for the scholarship because of an intense appetite to do academic work which would allow her to give back to her country.

"As a public servant and Jamaican, my overall mission is to introduce leadership that carries weighty transition and transformation and which is both evident and impactful throughout my spheres of influence. Additionally, the scholarship allows me a benefit that the Government offers, which I think many people need to look at because one of the things I learnt is that education is something you acquire for yourself and the development of others, and so if there is an opportunity for you to go further in your studies, take it," she noted.

With a radiant smile, Richards Franklin noted, "If you are going to make the kind of impact and contribution that you know you want to make, you must up your game. You cannot sit with old knowledge and expect to bring a new outcome."

Richards Franklin has always loved economics and has been fascinated with this area of study ever since she discovered its theories and practicality while at Holy Childhood High School. She has already made significant contributions to public service.

She is the co-author of policies that support mirco, small, and medium enterprises, entrepreneurship, and special economic zones. She also served as programme manager for the implementation of a records and information management programme that has been implemented in systems across select government entities.

Richards Franklin says, with the aid of her doctoral degree, she plans on helping the Government to transform economic policies. Her research proposal will be focusing on the implementation of economic policy.

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