The National Community Foundation (NCF) last Wednesday (August 10) disbursed 20 scholarships and 12 bursaries to students ahead of the commencement of the 2022/2023 school year in September.
The separate ceremonies were held upstairs the Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union Limited’s building on Bourbon Street, Castries, where the beneficiaries and their parents received official letters and were also briefed on the processes in procuring the school supplies.
The scholarships last for five years and include registration fees, books, uniforms, shoes, transportation and meal allowance stipend and CSEC Exam fees. For bursaries, students receive uniforms, shoes and books for five years. Students also get to print school materials at the NCF’s office and are encouraged to maintain a grade point average of 65% each school term.
This year, 27 NCF beneficiaries graduated from secondary school, two of whom were valedictorians – one from Beanefield Comprehensive Secondary School, the other from Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School.
The NCF was established in 2002 and is celebrating 20 years of existence this year. The non-profit and non-governmental organization raises funds to take care of the needs of persons who require assistance. As such, the NCF depends heavily on volunteerism.
NCF’s Executive Director, Michelle Phillips, congratulated the students for successfully sitting the CPEA, urging them to continue working hard to maintain success in their secondary school environment.
According to Phillips, an Education Committee reviews the scholarship applications. She stated that the number of applications the NCF currently receives far exceeds the number that the organization is able to fund.
“I know that we are tapping into a small demographic, but there is so much more that can be done,” she said. “So I would like to appeal to Saint Lucians and corporate society to understand that if it was bad before, COVID-19 has put a lot of people in a financial situation that they did not anticipate, so the need is great.”
The National Insurance Corporation (NIC) is responsible for the existence of the NCF. Twenty years ago, after a deluge of requests for assistance were being sent to NIC, the decision was made to establish a separate entity to address those requests. That new entity was the NCF.
Shervon Alfred, NIC’s Communications Manager, spoke at Wednesday’s presentation ceremony.
“Today, the NCF provides scholarship opportunities to more than 100 deserving young Saint Lucians who, while academically gifted, would otherwise face challenges in acquiring the resources necessary to allow them to focus on their education,” said Alfred.
He added: “The National Insurance Corporation is indeed proud and happy to support this initiative to the tune of EC$300,000.00 annually. Students, let me take this opportunity to say congratulations to each and every one of you.”
Alfred shared his personal story with the students, explaining that, he, too, faced a myriad of challenges as a student while being raised by a single mother who had five children to provide for while earning a living from low-paying jobs. This meant that he often went without textbooks and other essential materials for school.
“Just like you, I know what it’s like to receive a scholarship,” Alfred told the students. “In 2009, I was awarded a scholarship from the Government of Taiwan to pursue further education. I say confidently that the success that I’m enjoying today is in large part due to that scholarship I received. Education has opened doors for me that I previously thought impossible.”
He also had some crucial advice for the students: “Take this opportunity that you have been given by the NCF, make your parents proud, make NCF proud, take your schoolwork seriously, and use the gift that God has given you to shape your future and to change the lives of yourselves and your families. Remember to always give back to your society.”
The parents were all very appreciative about the NCF’s scholarship programme, especially Tama Constantine, whose daughter, Tamara, sat the CPEA this year at Aux Lyons Combined School and will attend St. Joseph’s Convent from this September.
“I know that the scholarship my daughter has received is going to help her achieve her dreams and make things even easier on my part as a parent,” Constantine said.
She added: “I want to say thank you to the NCF for helping not only me, but all the parents here today. It really is a challenge, and, with us knowing that we have some load off our shoulders, we will surely put our best foot forward and work hand in hand with NCF.”