Shaquille Howell, Of West Kingston, Motivated By Wife’s Confidence In HimNovember 14, 2022
Shaquille Howell took a rest when the going got too tough, but, importantly, he didn’t quit.
He sat out a number of semesters at the University of Technology (U-Tech) in St Andrew especially when his financial challenges bore down on him. That’s how he ended up taking six years to complete what is ordinarily a three-year degree programme.
He graduated on November 11, 2022 with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting (upper second class honours) as well as a minor in Finance and Banking.
“It feels good; it’s a lot of relief,” he told The Beacon while celebrating a dream that almost didn’t come true.
The native of Denham Town in West Kingston, who made the Honour Roll in 2017 and 2018, initially thought that he would not have attained a tertiary education any time soon due to his financial challenges.
His wife, Jolene, who was his girlfriend when he started university, played an integral role in submitting his applications for admission to the tertiary institution.
Alluding to a popular Jamaican saying in summing up her husband’s circumstance, she said: “You took the horse to the river, but you can’t force it to drink. I had to take the horse to the river and force it to drink and, once it drank, it couldn’t stop drinking.”
Mrs Howell recalled telling her other half: “You only have to start and you could get scholarships…”
That advice was not lost on Mr Howell, who opted to put in the necessary work.
“After he started [university], studying became an addiction,” his wife noted.
He ended up receiving scholarships such as the Kenton Hardy Memorial, as well as bursaries from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
Mr Howell is also appreciative of the assistance he received from some relatives abroad, as well as Facey Commodity Company Limited that provided him with work for two summers.
The assistance he got, however, did not fully alleviate his burdens, which included him sometimes being unable to afford fare and lunch especially during his first and second years at U-Tech.
“I didn’t know where the money was coming from [in some instances], but I was determined to finish all my modules and complete my courses,” Howell added.
His mother, Sandra Thompson, who struggled to support him and his seven siblings, now beams with pride knowing that her son has defied major odds to become a degree holder, especially in the inner-city where many young men tend to become involved in crime.
“Shaquille make me feel good and proud,” she told The Beacon. “Sometimes I couldn’t even find anything to give them to eat…”
She stated that, even when she could only give Mr Howell a paltry $50 while he was a child attending school, he accepted it without complaining.
He commended his mother for always being there for him and his siblings, adding that she taught them the importance of discipline, education and prayer.
“My mother fought for us in every way,” he asserted, while noting that many members of his community often commented on how disciplined his mother’s children are.
Mr Howell attended Edward Seaga Primary School – formerly Denham Town Primary, as well as Tivoli Gardens High School and St. Andrew Technical High.
Growing up in the inner-city, he argued, was bitter-sweet.
He has fond memories participating in the Kiddies Sunday and Scream Sunday parties.
However, he had to contend with upheavals especially in his late teens.
“The privilege of walking anywhere in the community was taken away by violence which captured the hearts of youths my age and younger…” Mr Howell lamented.
He recalled that, while he was attending classes at the university, he almost lost his life during an upheaval between gangs.
“I was in the Coronation Market area one night when two men from a gang confronted me and asked if I didn’t know that ‘turf war’ was going on,” he reflected.
He further stated that he showed them his U-Tech identification card, convincing them that he was not involved in any war. According to him, he was robbed of his cell phone and bus fare and then allowed to go.
Mr Howell is hoping that the degree he’s attained will inspire other people, including members of his community, to aim for success despite the circumstances under which they were born and raised.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who set a goal and achieved it in spite of the situation,” he told The Beacon.
Among the people Mr Howell wants to motivate is his younger brother, who is likely to commence classes at U-Tech next year.
He also encouraged university students and persons from his community to be humble and to gain wisdom because “gaining wisdom will open doors of opportunities”.
That’s not far-fetched considering that wisdom has worked wonders for him.
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