KINGSTON, Jamaica — Ten Wards-of-the-state, who are pursuing tertiary-level studies, have been awarded scholarships by the New York-based Jamaican charity, Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO).
The recipients, who were selected based on their academic record and financial need, are Megais Simpson, Aneka Gardner, Derval Reid, Thembeka Jarrett, Tianna Campbell, Lechelle Walker, Sahaine Brown, Janet Lafayette, Sashel Walters and Rohane Grey.
They are among 445 youth currently enrolled in the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) Transitional Living Programme.
Launched in 2014, the initiative provides life skills coaching, vocational skills training, housing, accommodation, tertiary education support and other opportunities to prepare the wards for independent living.
Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams, who addressed the awards luncheon held at the AC Hotel by Marriott in Kingston on Wednesday, May 18, congratulated the 10 scholarship recipients and urged them to continue to excel.
“You've done well. You demonstrated resilience, you did not allow the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to overwhelm you and distract you from what's important,” she said.
Founder and Chairman of COJO, Gary Williams, said the scholarship programme was introduced in 2012 to “empower our youth”.
“So much of them have done so well, and we figure that we’d help them get into university and give them the tools to become productive citizens,” he said.
Derval Reid, who is a computer science student at the University of Technology (UTech), said that the scholarship takes him one step closer to completing his studies and achieving his career goal of becoming a software engineer or applications developer.
“I feel really happy to know that I [won’t have to] worry about the financial burden on my guardians,” he said.
Aneka Gardner also shared that she intends to use the financial aid to complete her degree in language and linguistics at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
“My parents won’t have to worry about how I will get to school. I can get to finish and hopefully go on… to pursue my master’s degree,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, which is a sponsor of the COJO scholarships, Sandrina Davis, said the organisation believes it is imperative that “corporate Jamaica, non-profit organisations and individuals [support initiatives] to safeguard our children and their future.”
“We do this by ensuring that they have access to the highest level of education. Tertiary level education must not be regarded as only for a privileged few; it is a right [to all],” she contended.
Other sponsors include Victoria Mutual, Dennis Shipping, JetBlue Airlines, Sagicor, Jamaica National (JN) and a donor in Australia, who was once in State care and migrated from Jamaica in 1989.
The Transitional Living Programme involves collaboration with the Caribbean Child Development Centre, the University of the West Indies Open Campus, and the United States Agency for International Development.