OCHO RIOS, Jamaica — “Richard is one of the recipients that I remain absolutely proud of up to this day. He has shown the tenacity to not only receive the scholarship, but was at all times willing and available to give back to those who are in need.”
If executive director at the Sandals Foundation Heidi Clarke was gushing over Richard Johnson, it was because she was understandably impressed:
“He stands out as a proud recipient and an absolute gem of what the Sandals Foundation stands for, in his mission of being committed to investments that create a positive and sustainable impact on his community and surroundings,” Clarke said of the young man.
Richard is a success story coming out of the foundation's Care for Kids tertiary scholarship programme which seeks to uplift deprived students by empowering them through educational growth, community outreach and the environment, which are the bedrock on which the Sandals Foundation was established more than 12 years ago.
Care for Kids is a holistic scholarship programme that gives students the opportunity to explore their full potential by providing funding for tuition, books, transportation, uniforms and medical tests, Clarke noted.
Richard recounts: “I learnt about the Sandals Foundation while in grade three at Boscobel Primary and Infant school and the many activities that they are involved within the schools, communities and with the environment.
“When our teachers told us about the opportunity to receive scholarships to go to high school, I was excited, motivated and eventually pushed myself to receive one of those coveted scholarships to attend high school.”
A key element of the Care for Kids tertiary scholarship programme is that it goes further to help its recipients throughout their educational journey and beyond.
Richard received his seven-year scholarship, following his Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) success at the Boscobel Primary and Infant school in 2012, but maintaining this feat was difficult.
Having earned a space at the St Mary High school, he faced a slew of challenges at home that negatively impacted his academic success within the early years at the secondary level.
But Richard was determined to prove he was made for the tough times.
With perseverance and a tenacious mindset, backed by a supportive team motivating him, he emerged stronger through volunteering and being a strong believer in co-curricular activities, never relenting on his dream of becoming an auditor.
“While in high school, I was involved in the Cadet Corps which helped me maintain my discipline and kept me grounded academically. Having completed high school, with a passion for accounting, I matriculated into tertiary studies and decided to study a degree in finance and management,” he says.
Currently employed as a cost control clerk at the Sandals Golf & Country Club, he is closer to realising this dream, having undertaken an upcoming three-month internship at an auditing firm in St James.
“My short-term plan now is to complete this internship while making my mark in the industry with the aim of joining the workforce at the firm. Long-term dreams for me is to garner enough work experience and find my way back to Sandals Ochi to give back to the team and the Sandals Foundation while helping to build others.”
One of Richard's most unforgettable moments was the confirmation of another scholarship from the Sandals Foundation to attend the Moneague Community College to pursue his dream and passion of becoming an auditor, by studying for his bachelor's degree in finance management.
“The COVID-19 pandemic taught me a lot regarding family, socialisation and educational pursuits. My batch mates and I had to draw on our collective strength and work as a team to assist each other and to ensure that no one was left behind,” Richard confessed.
“My preferred learning style would be physical space but with each lecturer and classmate deciding that success is a must, we faced the different challenges and kept focus on what was most important – getting the degree completed.”
As someone who enjoys dancing and public speaking, Richard faced the challenge of not being able to participate in the debate and public speaking clubs, because of the pandemic. But he prides himself in celebrating each success, no matter how minor and worked hard in maintaining a good grade point average, which served as a motivator for this St Mary native.
His passion for his job at the Sandals Golf & Country Club has accounted for his growth within the industry, and has set him firmly on the path to becoming an auditor.
“Sandals Foundation taught me that giving is better than receiving and this for me is still resonating as I continue to grow in my career and through volunteerism.”
Sandals Foundation provides both children and adults with essential tools such as scholarships, supplies, digital devices, literacy programmes, mentorship and teacher training to help them reach their full potential.
The foundation was created to continue and to expand upon the philanthropic work that Sandals Resorts International has undertaken over the years.
“It is the culmination of close to four decades of dedication to playing a meaningful role in the lives of the communities where we operate across the Caribbean,” Executive Director Clarke said.
“The foundation funds projects in three core areas: education, community and the environment. One hundred per cent of the monies contributed by the general public to the Sandals Foundation goes directly to programmes benefiting the Caribbean community,” she added.