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The Power of Education & Giving to Change Lives
In his epic fable The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho wrote “when a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” That had been the desire of University of Belize (UB) President Professor Emeritus Clement Sankat when envisioning the UB Development & Endowment Fund (UBDEF), a vessel that would encourage the goodwill of the community, alumni, businesses and citizens of the country towards the development of the next generation of leaders; citizens people who will find solutions to the challenges of our growing nation. While the Fund hopes to build new programs, recipients of various scholarships to UB, have offered testimonials that highlight the impact of educational grants and subsidies on their lives.
The world for Tanya Bowen was always filled with challenges. Raised in a small village with 8 siblings, the 14 year old dropped out of primary school because of social and financial difficulties. At 24, she became pregnant. “I gave birth on March 10, 2012 and my Common-Law husband was brutally gunned-down May 27th, 2012, leaving me to be the only caregiver for my son. In 2010 I joined the Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP) at a standard five level of education. I had all the academic struggles many young people face today. Despite all that, I embrace my struggles because I realize that the same things that society refers to as weakness was my only strength.
Through the YAP Program I managed to get my GED through the Gwen Lizarraga High School Evening Division. I was happy, because of my 9 siblings, I was the only one to get a formal education at this level. During my 6 months in the program I developed a passion for social work. My life’s journey has been rough, but my sacrifice and dedication are paying off. My goal is to obtain a Masters Degree in the field of Social Work so that I would be able to work towards the changes I wish to see in my community.”
In August, 2017 Bowen was granted the UB President Scholars’ Program Tuition Scholarship. She wrote the UB President and told him “I am sincerely honored to receive this scholarship, which will help me to continue my Social Work studies at the UB. This scholarship will play a key role in achieving my educational dreams, while making a positive impact within my community. Because of your generosity, the financial burden will be reduced. Your act of kindness made an incredible difference in my life. So thank you again for this life-changing opportunity.”
Robert Hernandez, a UB graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Natural Resource Managment, is currently employed as a GIS Technician, but the educational journey was a humbling one. Hernandez recalls “Like other recipients of the UB athletic scholarship, it came at a time of heavy financial constraints for my family. I was good in shotput and the discus, so a track and field UB scholarship combined with God’s grace, paved a path. It was of great relief to my parents. We were struggling to pay for my education. This scholarship gave me and others, an opportunity awarded to very few people. That opportunity was to complete our degree programs. The responsibility was great but the reward even greater. Had I not received this scholarship, I may not be where I am today. Those scholarships provide more than just funds for a student to sit in a classroom, they are vital stepping stones in our educational system that allows less fortunate individuals to get a step ahead in life.”
Adonnis Gilbert Mcdonald, may look pensive next to the flag at UB’s most recent graduation ceremony in July, 2017 and that’s because the former Student Government President was reflecting on how the goodwill of others have shaped his educational expedition. He attended UB on a scholarship and it has opened new horizons as he prepares to pursue his Master’s Degree in International Relations at the University of West Indies St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad on another scholarship. “The cost of living is always rising and my mom also has other kids in high school. So when I gained a scholarship, it helped me understand the value of an education and motivated me to keep my grades intact. It also allowed me to discover my best attributes and the clarity to become successful while rising out of financial and mental poverty. The scholarship gave me an insight into inspiring other youths into following their dreams. Scholarships have been an essential and vital part of my life, giving me the basic pedagogical skills to become a productive citizen who knows an education is the road to success.”
While McDonald has moved on, Danielle Reneau has been thankful that UB has provided not only a scholarship but tremendous opportunities for personal growth. “It is with my utmost sincere gratitude, that I express how thankful I am, to have been granted the opportunity to further my education through the means of the Student Athletic Program. It has contributed to my personal development, in areas such as: being responsible, committed, maintaining proper discipline, and last but not least, understanding the importance of giving back.
This scholarship was the foundation that led to becoming a member of the Student Government. UB has set aside a budget to not only assist me but other young people like myself who seek higher learning, but cannot afford it. I used this as my motive, to get involved and give back to the UB as it has given to me. The scholarship is assisting me in completing my B.A. Degree in Tourism Management. Moreover, I was encouraged to be surrounded by other young people who are also determined to better themselves and seek higher learning. One of the huge benefits of this program was building lasting relationships with the next generation of doctors, nurses, marine biologists, teachers and social workers of Belize. I am honored to have served and represented the UB as a Black Jaguar. Likewise, I am sincerely grateful for UB’s contribution to the young woman that I am today and the young woman that I will be a few years from now. I am extremely thankful for the team of people that have pushed me to not only complete the mile physically, but to complete the journey academically; a team that has dedicated themselves to development of the future leaders of our country.”
One leader in training is Dianera Shol, a San Pedro Columbia, Toledo resident. On September 13, 2017 Shol received the UB President Scholars’ Program Scholarship at the Central Farm Campus. The scholarship and $300 per semester book grant to pursue an Associate’s Degree in Applied Agriculture will ensure she has the skills to improve farming techniques in the community when she returns home.
The UBDEF took on its first major initiative on September 17th called “The UB First President’s All-Inclusive Endowment Fete”, a Soca fundraiser featuring artists from Belize and Trinidad. The simple act of buying a ticket would have contributed to new 2018 stories of student development. The fete was sponsored by Belize Best Western Biltmore, Scotia Bank, Travellers, BTB, LoveFm, The El Guardian Newspaper, Bowen & Bowen and Grace Kennedy. The feedback from all who attended was a great, VIP experience. But while that is important, more importantly was that all contributed to the UBDEF. Pledges of commitment are still coming in and you can contribute to the UB Development and Endowment Fund by depositing to UB Scotia Bank Account number: 9138989. The UB understands its mission as a National University, and that can change the lives of the citizens of Belize. But it cannot do this without yours and the nation’s support.