Overcoming the odds
Neither fire nor financial hurdle could keep track star from collegeFriday, July 16, 2021
BY ROSALEE WOOD
PETERSFIELD, Westmoreland — High school track star, fire victim and determined daughter of a street vendor are all accurate descriptions of 19-year-old Kayly Guthrie. Now she has added college student to the list.
She's in the final stages of taking up a scholarship at Highland Community College (HCC) in Kansas, United States, having almost missed the application deadline.
“Honestly, it's a dream come true, I'm so excited!” the Petersfield High School graduate told the Jamaica Observer. She will be a part of their track team as she copped both an athletic and academic scholarship. She will study sports management and multimedia.
Even though some friends and family members tried to dissuade her from studying abroad, Guthrie was determined not to miss the opportunity. She feels it would have been a disservice to the struggles she has had to overcome in her life so far.
“My mom had it really hard after our house burnt down when I was about to leave grade nine. She had to rent a place for us to stay and she's a higgler, so it was pretty much a difficult task for her [financially]. I was not able to attend class every day,” she recalled.
Enrolling in the 163-year-old college nestled in rural USA was also a hard-fought battle as the teen felt she had no option but to figure it all out on her own. The former captain of her high school track team explained that, in her final year of studying, she did not have the guidance she expected from adults closest to her. Determined to study at a college overseas, she single-handedly took on the task of applying to several tertiary institutions.
A former athlete from her high school had urged her to apply for college early.
“Due to certain circumstances he didn't go,” Guthrie shared. “So one day he was talking to me and said, 'Kayly please don't wait on the appointed time to look for colleges'. I sent out a lot of e-mails [but] didn't get any response. But another [friend] who was also looking... got a response so he told me I could send an e-mail to [HCC] and I did.”
She was ecstatic when she was accepted but soon realised she had no idea how she would find the funds needed for the deposit or how to find a guarantor. That was when Good Samaritans in her community stepped in. Two business owners agreed to act as guarantors and Cornerstone Jamaica, a non-profit organisation whose main focus is elevating youths in western Jamaica, did the rest.
Led by April Phinney and Krystal Robertson, the Cornerstone Jamaica team took over the management of Guthrie's application. With only a few days to go until the deadline, they raised the funds needed to cover her deposit and ensured that all her documents were correctly completed and submitted, despite having to request a deadline extension twice.
“When Gary [Robinson, founder of Cornerstone Jamaica], reached out to me to give support [in the role of] a big sister, I jumped on it,” Robertson shared. “I know Kayly was seeking help with her documentation process for college. We knew that we wanted to help. The issue was getting all those documents together [on time]. That is when April stepped in. I am really happy we were able to do that.”
“She needed US$16,050 [for the] deposit, and Cornerstone [Jamaica] stepped in and covered that for her,” Phinney added.
Guthrie, who discovered her passion for track and field while attending Coote Savannah Basic School, represented Petersfield High School in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events. At the 2021 ISSA Boys' and Girls' Championship, she made it to the semi-finals in the 200 metres.
Guthrie, who currently lives in Burnt Savannah, is working towards one day becoming a professional athlete and an Olympian.