St Thomas youth, who dropped out of school, wins national award for helping needy children stay in school

December 4, 2019 0 By Horace Mills

He dropped out of college and was expelled from high School in fifth form; he founded the Yutes4Change Foundation; he is now a recipient of the 2019 Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Youth Development.

Ricardo Burke, while accepting the prestigious award in Kingston on November 30, received a $100,000 bursary from Jamaica National Bank – funds that he said will go towards helping needy students with schooling.

“Before the award, I said to someone that, if we were selected, I would prefer to receive funding so we can continue to provide equal opportunities for all,” Burke told The Beacon.

He recalled that, when he started the foundation in 2014, his move aroused the suspicion of many. Some people even called him a scammer.

The foundation, however, grew in trustworthiness. Its latest accomplishment in the form of the national award is now an icing on the proverbial cake, Burke indicated.

“I am appreciative of the award, as it will give approval of what we are doing… It also puts the organization in a place where we might be able to receive and be a part of a wider network,” the philanthropist further said while expressing gratitude to all who have been supporting the cause.

The foundation started during what Burke said was a most depressing time of his life.

The move, he explained, was in response to the numerous requests he was getting mainly from students who were struggling to attend school especially due to financial constraints.

“Even though at times resources are very difficult to come by, we always try our best to help people in need,” said Burke, who himself grew up in a poverty-stricken household in the Barking Lodge area of St Thomas.

“I grew in a poor family, but it’s only a few years ago I really realized that I was poor,” Burke told The Beacon.

Although he is a crusader for children to stay in school, Burke, ironically, struggles to practice the ‘stay in school’ message that he preaches.

He recently dropped out of Excelsior Community College where he was pursuing an associate degree in social work.

“I was attending college and had to drop out because I couldn’t pay the fees,” he said. “I would love to resume my studies in January, so I can better be able to serve my organization. I realized that, if you don’t attend university, local funders tend to stay away.”

Burke was also expelled from St. Thomas Technical High School two weeks before CSEC exams. He explained that he was booted because he got into a fight while defending a boy who was being bullied.

Burke, in retrospect, wished he was more focused especially in high school, adding that he would have left there with more than one CSEC subject.

Despite the challenges with school and struggling to support his family – including one child, Burke has never wavered in his commitment to help people.

“Going forward, we will continue to serve the under-served people of this nation,” he further said.

By Horace Mills, Journalist


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