Racquel Simpson, Youthlink Writer
Having the most ambitious mind is hardly ever enough to fulfill its biggest dreams and reach the pinnacle of success. This is one lesson that 22-year-old Sheriffa Monroe had to learn early in life.
Although she had met all the academic requirements, there was one major obstacle standing between her and her desire to acquire a tertiary education and become a certified financial analyst - poverty.
Being challenged From An Early Age
Sheriffa grew up in Nine Miles, Bull Bay, and was raised by her mother. "My dad ... I haven't seen since I was about 12 years old but I wasn't raised by a single parent, only one loving parent, my mother," she declared.
Notwithstanding the lack of support from the other parent, which left financial and subsequent emotional challenges, Sheriffa's steadfastness, determination and persistence saw her efficaciously matriculate for St Andrew High School for Girls, after sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) at Alpha. At St Andrew High, she maintained her diligent attitude towards her schoolwork and passed 13 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects, five Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations subjects and placed first in management of business and economics - unit two.
The Harsh Reality
At first, it seemed her prodigious performance and exuberance would have taken her thus far and no further. "Throughout high school I had both financial and emotional challenges yet, despite all of that, I was one of the best academically. However, when that chapter of my life closed, it seemed as though my educational journey had ended and it was a pending reality that I didn't have to wait to be told that university would not be an option. That was obvious!" she told Youthlink. Her reality had left her in tears and with a melancholic disposition for weeks, but certainly she was not in a state of despondency. She knew she had to be stronger and more determined if she wanted to become the self-sufficient financial analyst. Further education was her only hope to escape the life of poverty which she saw lurking in the shadows.
So, on the cusp of her determination, she swallowed her pride and went to seek the financial assistance that she had lacked. "For weeks I cried, I prayed, but most of all I did not give up. I went on a shameless hunt for help. I wrote letters to organisations asking for help. I applied for just about every scholarship I knew I was eligible for. I applied for scholarships to several universities; namely University of the West Indies, University of Technology, Tampa University, Caribbean Maritime Institute and wherever I would get the grant from, that's where I would go," the resilient Sheriffa pronounced. "I was determined to defy all negative expectations because every community has its challenges and mine wasn't any different. You had those people who were very encouraging while there were others who were envious or who even ridiculed me because I sought to not be limited by my situation," she added.
Sheriffa had to keep herself motivated and her eyes set on her objective, but this was not a hard task for her. "My inspiration comes from the fact that I am not worthless, as I was called; stupid, as I was told; or a silly dreamer, as some would have thought. I am ambitious, dedicated and destined to succeed. I never made poverty or what folks thought about me a reason for my failure. I made it the reason for me wanting to excel."
Despite no positive response from any university to which she had applied, and no offer of financial support from any organisation, her hope and determination did not go in vain. "My principal at St Andrew High School for Girls, Mrs Sharon Reid, along with another teacher, Mrs Morine Chang, were two of the people who recognised my potential and joined me in the search for assistance to get into university. It was Mrs Reid who had come across a scholarship programme offered by the NCB Foundation online and introduced me to it. I applied and was selected as the St Andrew parish champion for 2008," she beamed.
With her tuition covered for the duration of her course, via $200,000, she managed to study banking and finance at the University of the West Indies. "It was just a matter of maintaining a 3.3 GPA average. In the preliminary stages I was doing economics, but the maths got too intense. I am not a math person, so I had to switch to banking and finance, which dealt more with analysis ... something I was better at. It was also my priority to set aside some time to volunteer in community service." With her Bachelor of Science in banking and finance, she is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies.
To say she is grateful for the assistance given to her by the NCB Foundation is an understatement. "My immediate reaction was just pure screams, followed by tears of joy ... the NCB Foundation believed in my dreams, and more important, in me. Having received that grant has elevated me and given me affirmation that there is always a way to meet educational goals and I'm thankful for that. I feel really great about organisations such as NCB because they are helping to develop an individual [in the short term but a] nation in the long run."