Beacon of the day | Arnett Gardens resident, booted by UWI, earns first degree in family

Tianna Murray, who grew up in a single-parent household in the inner-city community of Arnett Gardens in Kingston, was de-registered from the University of the West Indies (UWI) in her second year due to financial challenges.

Despite the setback, she, this year, graduated from the said university with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Sociology and Criminology.

“I didn’t allow money to stop me from dreaming big and going higher heights…” she said. “I was filled with hope and therefore I pressed towards the goal.”

Murray, who will next pursue her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, intends to become a criminologist or criminal investigator.

“In the Caribbean, we don’t have a lot of criminologists,” she noted.

“I want to research to bring about a better explanation from a Caribbean perspective about crime and criminal behavior…”

Murray’s eyes are also set on doing researches for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

She is not oblivious to the fact that crime is among the major issues that beset communities like the one in which she was born and raised.

She told The Beacon: “My community is riddled with crime, poverty, females with low self-esteem, teenage pregnancy, drinking and smoking among our youth, and many other social issues. I didn’t allow myself to be dragged into those or to be discriminated against for the issues that existed around me.”

Murray managed to stay above the fray partly because of the encouragement she has received from friends and relatives, especially her mother Marilyn Senior and eldest sister Kerry-ann Webb.

“We didn’t have it easy, but I am humbled enough and extremely grateful for the life I live. My family showers me with words of encouragement daily. That’s all I could ask for,” she further told The Beacon.

Murray understood from very early that, with a sound education, she could escape the clutches of poverty.

That’s among the reasons she took a keen interest in academics while enrolled at Iris Gelley Primary School, Holy Childhood High, and the sixth form programme at St. Andrew Technical High School.

Murray took a leap of faith in 2016 when she commenced studies at UWI amid financial uncertainty.

“The Lord specifically told me no [regarding applying for Students Loan]. Nevertheless, I took things up in my hand and went on the search for guarantors. After multiple contacts, I was not successful,” Murray said.

She struggled financially through UWI in the first year, but it was in the second year that things came tumbling down when the institution de-registered her for failing to meet her financial obligations.

“When I was told the news, I went home and cried,” Murray recalled.

She explained that she experienced somewhat of a divine intervention hours after being de-registered. She attended a crusade at her church – Trench Town Seventh-Day Adventist, and a church member volunteered to pay her outstanding university fees in full, clearing the path for her to return to the UWI.

“God made a way! He allowed persons to bless me and I am extremely grateful,” said Murray, who has been a Christian for seven years.

She, this year, completed her studies at the UWI.

“I am the first in my family to obtain a degree,” Murray noted. “I was determined to go hard, though many times I wanted to throw in the towel… I have little nieces and nephews, cousins and other youth in my community who are looking up to me, and so I will not give up.”

Murray encouraged other people to never give up or allow their financial struggles to blight their future.

“Don’t take no for an answer,” she further advised. “Don’t allow finances to keep you back from achieving your goals. Have a clear vision and rise above your circumstances. The moment you feel like giving up, that’s when you should push harder.”


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