'Never limit yourself'
Scholarship recipient vows to make an impact on Lawrence Park community

BROWN'S TOWN, St Ann — In 2018 Jayon Dunbar was ecstatic after he received an acceptance letter from The University of the West Indies to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Economics.

It would make him the first person from his rural community, Lawrence Park in St Ann, to go to university. His joy later turned to frustration after he realised he could not afford a college education.

He had to push back his acceptance while he figured out his next move. During that time his beloved grandmother died, adding to his distress. As he watched his peers go off to college his self-confidence plummeted.

“It was stressing at the time, and it allowed me to feel like a failure. Knowing my capabilities and that everyone in my year group was off to college and I was just sitting at home allowed me to feel incompetent and [as if I] lack[ed] accomplishment— like I was stuck,” Dunbar told the Jamaica Observer.

However, the year off from studying turned out to be an eye-opening experience. He realised that, with the limited opportunities available to him, he would never be able to save enough to pay his college tuition. As the second academic year after he was accepted loomed he had a decision to make: either sit out another year or get help from the Students' Loan Bureau.

He chose the latter and enrolled in 2019.

“There was a huge amount of uncertainty about how I was going to finance myself. Despite this major obstacle, I took the initiative to apply for a student loan to cover my tuition. I only was able to make a small deposit for my boarding expense, just enough for the university to provide me with a room key. I was not able to pay my miscellaneous fee… it was throughout the semester that I was able to make continuous small payments to fully cover this particular cost,” he said.

Since then, he said, he decided to continue applying for scholarships. His applications were granted in some cases but they still did not cover his full tuition. He was constantly worried about money.

Now the 22-year-old final-year student can breathe a bit easier. Last Friday he was among the recipients at the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) annual scholarship awards ceremony. He received the Douglas Vaz Scholarship for Economics.

“I am extremely grateful for this scholarship because it will definitely help me, financially, to finish this school year and provide an avenue for me to be an inspiration to persons in my community with a similar background and financial constraints, so they know that anything is possible once they put their minds to it and never give up. If I had given up I would not be here today. It's perseverance and hard work that placed me in this position,” Dunbar said.

During the ceremony at Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston, six national scholarships were awarded to individuals with a strong record of academic achievement who demonstrate concern for others, a commitment to community and country, strong leadership potential, and exemplary character.

An energised Dunbar is eager to help other students who are struggling to remain hopeful and engaged despite the weight of financial burdens. He urged them to never lose faith in themselves.

“Never limit yourself. Whatever persons in the aristocratic areas can do, so can you. When I was in that [position] I thought there was no way for me to be an asset to my family and community at large, and I never wanted to live a life [of poverty]. You can't settle for less; you are worth more than you give yourself credit for. You envision your own life… and need to put yourself out there… and by doing that you will learn ways you can improve yourself,” he said.

BY DONICKA ROBINSON Observer writer

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