Sir Arthur Lewis Community College Graduation Countdown.
MY job as a prevention specialist is to offer Prevention Education Programmes to adjudicated and “at-risk” teens and young adults at high schools, community centres, faith-based groups, and non-profit agencies.
My role is to help the students develop awareness about rape prevention, substance abuse prevention, domestic violence, healthy choices, and promoting safe dates among teens/tweens. As a stimuli, students create public service announcements about the topics that are later aired in movie theatres and on social media– multiplying the impact of pro-social messages to teens.
I love my job and the ability to motivate teens who think there is no life for them after 18 because of the bullets that roam the streets both day and night. In my life I have witnessed many students changing their lives for the better. Some have stopped using drugs, while, others have gotten jobs for the first time and a handful are trying.
At the age of 32 with a nine page curriculum vitae, I travel to organizations, colleges and businesses to offer workshops. I recently worked on three substance abuse and rape prevention campaigns. I currently hold a Master’s degree in Clinical and Mental Health Counselling, two Bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies along with over 30 certifications and awards.
Of course, I was not always this fortunate. If I were to tell you that I was a high school dropout, would you believe me? If I told you that I attended community college without any CXCs, would you believe me? If I told you that I am one of those success stories you were told, would you believe me?
Prior to 2001, December 1996, was the last time I saw inside a classroom. Due to my family’s financial difficulties, I was withdrawn from secondary school by my parents, neither of whom could afford the $80 monthly bus fare. Subsequent to my withdrawal from school, I began working at a factory to help support my family. I was pleased to be able to contribute to supporting my family; I just wasn’t satisfied.
Many people never knew why I left school. Some assumed I was just rebellious. Others thought I got pregnant at school, but the funniest of them all was that “I was expelled from school, because I was caught having sex in the sick room.” Because of all those rumours in the community, I was seen as prey for many men who thought that I would satisfy their sexual pleasure as an under-aged child. Men started offering me money for sexual favours, which I always refused over and over. I remember one occasion when I went out with my stepfather and his cousin to deliver something. While my stepfather stepped away for a moment to deliver the item, his cousin who was maybe in his late 40s asked me “How are things? You want $20?. But you must do something for me.”
When I immediately responded: “No, you think I will prostitute myself for money.” His reply was: “Do not look at it as prostituting, look at it as a way of helping yourself.” With such reply I walked away from him. But the men never stopped coming/trying.
I always knew I wanted something better and greater for myself. I particularly I wanted to help the less fortunate. And so, in 2001 with my struggles beside me, determination on my back, tears in my eyes and hope for my future, I went to speak to the Assistant Coordinator at the Southern Extension Centre of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. I was accepted to pursue access courses, since I could not enrol in a programme without CXC passes. I was given an incentive/hope though: If I successfully completed all the requisite access courses, I would be allowed to enrol in a Certificate Programme.
The first exam that I took, I scored 78%. That was the moment I lost that little voice that kept on doubting my abilities. As the wind blew I continued striving for the top.
Initially, I received a personal scholarship to start my studies. However, about two years down the road, the funding ended. So the Assistant Coordinator helped me get a bursary to continue my schooling. This was the first time any student at the Southern Extension Centre had ever received a bursary from the Ministry of Education.
To this day I am very thankful to Mrs. CleophaDilsuk who went above and beyond for me. She was my role model and she showed that she sincerely cared about me. On those days when I had nothing to eat, she would always offer me from hers. She may not remember, but the little things she did for me still linger at the front of my heart.
SEC moulded me to become the person I am today, a person who cares for and about others and not just myself. While attending SEC, I tutored students with academic challenges. I offered after school classes and Saturday mornings IT and shorthand classes. I can say with pride that the students I tutored always succeeded their exams. The more I helped students, the stronger my passion for helping others grew.
I recall during my first year at SEC, I began living on my own. This was another circumstance that had fallen into my lap without a choice. For the first two months, I got help from family and friends. Afterwards, I was on my own, but I got the opportunity to work at SEC under the College’s Work Study Programme. With this small income, I had to pay my house rent and basically support myself. There were times when I didn’t know where my house rent would be coming from, but never did I ever think of prostituting myself for money, nor did I once miss a rent payment. My landlord was also a very caring lady. She would sometimes cook supper for me, and invite me to her home upstairs, as soon as I returned home from school.
Very often, the students in the neighbourhood spent the entire weekend at my home, and I would use my last crumb to cook for them, because for some of them, at the age of twenty, my home provided comfort and safety.
In 2004, I graduated from SALCC with a Clerk Typist Certificate, as the top achiever within that programme. That certificate allowed me matriculation for the Office Administration Associate Degree Programme. In 2005 I again graduated as the Top Achiever in my programme. Needless to say, I was elated to be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow graduates who matriculated with five CXC passes.
I was subsequently accepted at Grambling State University in the U.S, where I pursued a double major in Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies. Everything continued uphill from there.
While my life may sound like a fairytale, it was the chance I was given at SEC that helped me become who I am today, a Prevention Specialist, a caring mother, and loving wife. Through the support received from the instructors, staff and Mrs. Dilsuk, my burden was lightened. I became stronger because they cleaned my mirror and showed me my true reflection. They showed me my survival story, my future.
Thank you Sir Arthur Lewis Community College!!