A former bartender, Natasya Richards, has left Moneague College with a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Education – a lifetime dream come true.
“I am ready to go in the classroom and exercise my passion,” she told The Beacon, adding that her journey to success was riddled with struggles.
The 26-year-old declared: “I don’t blame any struggle; I don’t regret any struggle; I appreciate all of them. If it wasn’t for my struggles, I don’t think I would be here today. The struggles motivated me, but I wouldn’t want to go back through that route.”
Richards, a native of Bog Walk in St. Catherine, was a few days old when a paternal aunt took her from her mother who, at the time, was a struggling 17-year-old.
The said aunt, as well as Richards’ father, migrated.
Richards ended up under the supervision of another paternal female relative.
She faced indecent assault, as well as verbal and physical abuse, she said.
Poverty was also a sordid part of her existence. “I didn’t see a door that I could run through and say ‘bye poverty’!” Richards said.
She recalled struggling to make her way through Linstead Primary School as well as McGrath High. “The struggle going to high school was real – no lunch money, no books, no support. I can’t remember anyone ever going to a PTA meeting for me,” Richards said.
After completing McGrath High, Richards worked in her community as a self-employed cosmetologist. “That helped me to send myself back to school to do some additional subjects like Biology and Maths,” she explained.
She eventually went in search of jobs to help ease her financial stress. “It was very stressing; I had mental break-downs; I fainted,” Richards recounted.
She got a job at a bar in Kent Village, Bog Walk.
She noted: “I don’t have anything against people who work in a bar, but it was not my thing.”
Richards later worked for a few months at a call centre before she returned to the bar. In 2015, she became an employee at Trade Winds Citrus Limited, which is better known as Tru-Juice, and is located in Bog Walk.
Richards initially was hired as a seasonal drumming clerk – labeling drums with orange juice concentrate. She later started to select oranges.
“I was getting like $2,000 to $4,000 every fortnight; it was really low. But I was still doing it because my work was just across the road from home,” she said.
Richards subsequently got promotion to work as a lab technician – testing raw juices.
She recalled: “Working as a lab technician, I was surrounded by a lot of brilliant persons – persons with degrees who are highly intelligent and motivational.”
Inspired by the brilliance her co-workers, Richards, in 2016, made a big step towards fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a teacher.
She enrolled at Moneague College campus in Linstead, St. Catherine.
“When I applied for college, I didn’t know how I was going to finance it. I din’t know where I was going to get food, clothing, nothing. But I just know that I’m going to do it,” Richards told The Beacon.
“When I started college, I was getting paid like $12,000 a fortnight and my school fee was more than $110,000. I had to borrow loans from my workplace… Whenever I got paid, I didn’t have anything to show; I didn’t even have fare to go to school. I didn’t have lunch; I didn’t have anything… When it’s time for me to sit my exams, I was never yet on the clear list… I was always in debt to the school.”
Richards further stated that, for the four years she attended college part-time while working full-time, she had several sleepless nights – literally!
She also recalled that, when she started college, she ended up having to rent a room because she was being forced out of the family home near Tru-Juice.
Richards added: “My father was providing the [rented] room for me, and I was providing schooling and everything else on my own… I tried not to pressure my mother; I tried not to pressure my father. At the time [I started college], I was 21-22 years old. I think it was my responsibility to do something for myself.”
Now the holder of a degree, Richards indeed did something for herself, using hard work and dedication.
She told The Beacon that she also left college without owing a cent.
“I remember owing more than $300,000 for school fee; I left college owing nothing,” added Richards, who became a Christian two years ago – worshiping at Lighthouse Assembly in Spanish Town.
Reflecting further on her journey, she posited: “If you want something in life, you can get it with or without money. Sometimes it’s just faith that works.”
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