A Couple, Who Gives Students From The ‘Ghetto’ Scholarships, Celebrates With GraduateDecember 6, 2023
Denecia Kelly’s graduation from university was so important for Linval Taylor and his wife Menervah, they flew into the island from the United States in time to witness it.
They had provided the former high school drop-out with a scholarship, which facilitated her just-concluded journey through the University of Technology (U-Tech), where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
“Mrs Taylor is a nurse, and she always gives me great advice – and I want to be like her,” a beaming Denecia declared.
Her childhood, though nestled within an inner-city community riddled with challenges, was still a delight, she told The Beacon.
“My community – Waterhouse in Kingston – at times, was violence-stricken. Apart from that, my childhood was fun. Not many people from my community have gotten the opportunity that I have, but a lot of potential and great minds are there; they just need a chance,” she said emphatically, eager to dispel misconceptions about where she is from. Her own fortitude and success speak volumes.
Her excellence in academics traces back to her days at Pembroke Hall Primary School, where she emerged as Head Girl in 2010.
Transitioning to Ardenne High, which is one of Jamaica’s most esteemed secondary schools, Denecia continued to excel until life threw an unexpected curve-ball at her while she was in Grade 11 – her final year. That’s when she found out that she was expecting a child.
“My mom was disappointed when I got pregnant,” said Denecia, who was brought up by her mother Alphia Anderson and stepfather Samuel Harris.
She recalled that, although her mom was at first devastated to learn of her pregnancy, she continued to support her.
Her grandmother, Ernestine Dean, was also a pillar of strength, facilitating her return to school and providing crucial childcare support.
“My grandmother used to babysit while I went to school at Ardenne High. She was also the one who took me to get enrolled at the Women’s Centre so that I could get back into the school system after having my baby,” Denecia revealed.
For six months, amidst the swirling emotions of teenage pregnancy, she found solace and empowerment within the nurturing walls of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica. There, she not only embraced the then challenges of impending motherhood, but also delved into her studies, preparing herself for a triumphant return to Ardenne High after giving birth.
“After having my daughter at age 16, I faced a lot of hardships, but I always prayed! God always found a way for me…” the 25-year-old asserted.
Upon her return to high school, she secured eight CSEC subjects, administered by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC). Her ardor for education propelled her into the school’s sixth form, where she attained eight CAPE subjects, showcasing her intellectual prowess and burning desire to succeed.
After sixth form, Denecia enrolled at U-Tech. She initially wished to pursue law, but opted to study nursing. She explained that she actually became passionate about nursing while in her second year at university. Her intention is eventually to become a nurse anesthesiologist.
Proud of all that she has managed to attain academically, Denecia acknowledged the pivotal roles that key figures have played in her journey. They include Paulette Wright who taught her at Pembroke Hall Primary, Karen Mullings who is Ardenne High’s bursar, Dahlia McDaniel from Charlie’s Pharmacy, and of course the Taylors who offered her a life-changing scholarship.
“That scholarship changed my life tremendously, and it is the reason why I am where I am today. When I applied to U-Tech, I didn’t know how I would afford my tuition. It was a classmate of mine who saw the scholarship and told me about it. It covered my four years of tuition, transportation, lunch money – everything,” Denecia told The Beacon.
She further said: “If it had not been for this scholarship, I might have ended up at a call centre instead of a university. I remember in my third year I failed a module, and I thought I would have lost my scholarship. I almost gave up, really, but I have to create the best life for my daughter. God has bigger plans for me.”
Denecia is among 16 tertiary students who, so far, have received scholarships from Jamaican native Mr and Mrs Taylor, who now live in the United States. The couple also donated 30 laptops to various students – a further show of their selfless dedication to education.
“The bottom-line is that all they (scholarship recipients) have to do is attend classes, study, and get good grades,” declared Mr Taylor, who is from Waterhouse, Kingston.
He is ecstatic to have been able to assist especially inner-city students like Denecia.
“As a product of the inner-city, I know firsthand that there are bright kids in the inner-cities who need financial help to escape the ghetto lifestyle. There are limited – if not zero – opportunities for them. We decided to use our contributions to show them that we are action-oriented and not talk-oriented,” Mr Taylor further told The Beacon, noting that the scholarships cover all school-related expenses – even graduation.
“My wife and I are in our early seventies, and in good health. We will continue to offer more scholarships as long as we possibly can. We love all children, but we are head over heels about bright ones who have the potential to be tomorrow’s change agents long after we exit this side of the earth,” he reasoned.
Mr Taylor spoke glowingly of Denecia. “Denecia graduated this year. She is brilliant, a hard worker, and determined to succeed. She bounced back after an initial setback, and it was not surprising that she graduated with honours.”
Denecia, in the meantime, said her success goes far beyond personal aggrandizement. Her hope is to give back to her community and country.
“Being a product of the ghetto is not a one-way street. I wish to help others through charity events, breakfast programmes, or anything else,” she said. “I love Jamaica and the opportunity that Mr and Mrs Taylor have given to me. I want someone to feel how they have made me feel.”
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