I felt like I won the lottery – Innercity Youth Earns Degree In Industrial Engineering With Support From Taylor ScholarshipDecember 12, 2023
Hats off mainly to his parents, Devon Smith managed to stay above the fray during his childhood, not falling victim to crime like several young men with whom he grew up in the inner-city community of Waterhouse, Kingston.
“It was a big group of us, and they took their little time and probably would gravitate towards smoking, or hanging out with persons involved in crime and eventually it caught up with them,” he told The Beacon. “I can count on one hand right now the number of my friends from the group that are still alive. The ones who were involved in crime are now dead point-blank.”
Though Devon had moral support at home, his family lacked the financial strength to provide the extra push he needed after secondary school, especially when he seriously was contemplating enrollment at university.
That’s where the Linval and Menervah Taylor Scholarship came in.
It covered all university-related expenses, including boarding, laptop, tuition, meals and graduation. The only thing that Devon had to do was show up at classes and maintain good grades.
“I felt like I won the lottery,” he quipped; his voice tinged with humor and gratitude. “The scholarship covered my meals, transportation, and everything. I didn’t need to worry about money for school anymore.”
Devon, 25, is now the holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. Since he graduated last year from the University of Technology (U-Tech), he has been serving his country through the Jamaica Defence Force.
His career choice, he explained, was inspired by the fact that he, at age 14, watched one of his friends dying after being shot. “I literally watched him die,” noted the past student of Ardenne High School, Kingston College, Seaward Primary, and Apex Early Childhood Development Centre and Preparatory School.
His burning desire to make a positive difference, coupled with his outstanding academic performance – of course, caught the Taylors’ attention.
Mr Taylor, who, along with his Jamaican wife, awards scholarships to students mainly from inner-city communities, told The Beacon: “Devon was an exceptional student – career driven, extremely disciplined and focused. He accepts criticisms with an eye to improving himself.”
Mr Taylor, originally from Waterhouse – just like Devon, has been living in the United States for many years.
“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,” he said.
The couple, so far, has distributed 16 scholarships for local students to attain tertiary education. Of that number, two recipients lost their scholarships due to poor performance, Mr Taylor disclosed.
The students still benefiting include one whom Devon had informed about the opportunity. “I have sold this scholarship to two people and one of them got through, and he is now at the University of the West Indies. This and other scholarships are so important…” Devon asserted.
He also voiced gratitude to the other people who have helped to shape his perspective and desire to work towards the most positive future for himself.
They include his father who died of cancer. “He died in September of 2003, and all I can remember is how he was always laughing. No one had anything bad to say about him. He had firm morals and standards, and I aspire to be like him,” Devon said.
He also credited his mother Patricia Kerr and aunt Asha Kerr. “My mom and aunt really helped me, motivation-wise. We never really had it (wealth), but I didn’t let it bother me. I’m a very humble person; I’m not too picky.”
Devon also explained how his mother, in her own unique way, made sure he walked the straight and narrow path.
“My mom was the type of person who, even if I failed at something, would definitely cuss me, but then find a solution and say, ‘Alright, come mek mi try and fix this’. She always pushes me; she never drags me down,” Devon told The Beacon. “I think I escaped the negative lifestyle in Kingston because, most times on holidays, my mom would send me to Portland. Portland wasn’t filled with violence, so I would spend half of the summer in town (Kingston) and half in Portland. That little Portland gap really helped me to not gravitate towards bad company.”
Devon encouraged other scholarship recipients – and persons in general – to rise above their challenges. “Don’t let your past define your current situation. Don’t think good can’t come from the garrison, because everyone has their ups and downs. Believe in yourself; have confidence!” he advised.
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