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UB Imprint Vol 08: Portrait of UB Alumni Association’s President
Portrait of UB Alumni Association’s President
The President of the University of Belize Alumni Association (UBAA) Darlene Vernon, in addition to her fulltime profession as an attorney, is also leading the Association’s participation with key University initiatives. In addition to serving on the UB Board of Trustees, Vernon was recently appointed to serve on the UB Development and Endowment Fund Committee which is launching the UB First President’s All Inclusive Endowment Fete. This initiative which takes place on Sunday, September 17th at the Birds Isle in Belize City, is a Soca Jumpup fundraiser for student scholarships. The UBAA is also fully involved in the July 27th installment of Professor Emeritus Clement Sankat as the Seventh President of UB at the St John’s Anglican Cathedral. And though those two events are part of a tight timeline, Vernon is contemplating the possibility of reestablishing the annual alumni ball for graduates of the five amalgamated schools.
Vernon’s office is situated in the Renaissance Towers. It wasn’t an easy journey for Vernon and her family to achieve a level of success at this juncture. While in high school, her mother Margaret worked three jobs. Vernon herself was no Cinderella sitting waiting for a Prince Charming, she was a taskmaster. “During my second year at Pallotti High School, I had to meet her at one of her jobs in the evening time and help her clean.” This was the norm for Vernon, who continued to work while at high school and then sixth form. “I begged employers to work on weekends and holidays. I even did a receptionist job at the Chateau Caribbean” Vernon recalls. But after receiving her Associates degree she began working at the law firm of Chebat and Company. Her interest in law grew and she enrolled in the Paralegal program at UB.
She went to UB three times a week at the ITVET building in Belize City and Vernon reminiscences “at UB it is the quality of lecturers we had and it was so good. They expressed the law clearly.” The evening classes went on for two years during a time senior members, an all-star cast of the bar conducted the classes including Sharon Frazer, Lutchman Sooknandan, Eamon Courtenay and Christopher Coye. Legal theory became easier to understand because of the excellent lecturers and the experienced she gained as a paralegal. Vernon’s humble beginning was instrumental with the generosity she gave when she met modest Belizeans who needed legal help but lacked cash to obtain advice. “I was able to assist people who couldn’t afford an attorney with small favors. Money wasn’t a concern.” The values she learned at home were enshrined at UB. “It was to help people. It really pushed me to pursue law.” She graduated with distinction from UB’s paralegal course in 2001.
Her talent and ability did not go unnoticed by Lisa Shoman during Vernon’s two years working at Chebat and Company. Shoman says “Darlene has always, since the very first, had tremendous ability. The firm paid for her paralegal studies because we had such faith in her capacity. And I urged her to make law her life’s path because I knew she would excel” says former employer, Lisa Shoman. Shoman felt the paralegal at the law firm of Shoman and Chebat had a bright future and “We backed her fully, supported her in obtaining a scholarship to UWI to read Law and we kept a place at the firm for her during all her years of study. It has been my great satisfaction to watch her leave the nest and fly.”
She has flown and has rarely stopped to rest. She received her Bachelors of Law in Guyana and then graduated from the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica. At Norman Manley she was the recipient of the top prize for ethics; awarded to the student achieving the highest grade in the course and the Hon. Justice Madge Morgan O.D. Memorial Prize for trial advocacy.
During the election of the current UB Alumni Association Board, Belize Tourism Board (BTB) Executive Director Karen Bevans was the guest speaker. Bevans, also an alumnus of UB, has committed to work with the Association. Vernon’s current mandate is to revive the Association and attract alumni to join the body which had experienced some dormancy over the years. This includes organizing an environmental cleanup campaign, making appearances at events such as the Agricultural and Trade Show and initiating recruitment drives at the UB graduation practices.
The cost to join, five dollars, would go towards assisting the Association’s effort to build a website that would help other alumni to network and help UB’s growth. The Association will soon be launching a series of benefits for members including discounts for selected services and products from prominent businesses and a directory for alumni owned businesses. Vernon hopes graduates will continue to support their Alma Mata, the University of Belize.
Ms. Vernon also invites other graduates of the University College of Belize (UCB), the Belize Teachers Training College (BTTC), the Bliss School of Nursing (BSN), Belize Technical College (BTC), Belize School of Agriculture (BSA), and University of Belize to join the assocation and continue the transformation of UB.
Interested persons can contact [email protected]
Let’s build UB together.