National Baking Company Foundation to the rescue of university students

With many university students at risk of having to pause, or completely stop pursuing their degree when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the National Baking Company Foundation recognised the challenges and moved quickly to offer assistance.

An overarching theme for 2020 was uncertainty, especially for students whose experiences were altered significantly, with many worried about how to meet their financial requirements.

The National Baking Company Foundation had made a commitment to the University of the West Indies Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF) through its ‘Each One Give One Campaign’, which enables the fund to assist one second-year student with a scholarship annually.

It was through this fund that biochemistry major Alana Morrison was granted the opportunity to continue her studies despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

The Montego Bay-born and raised student momentarily considered having to seek employment as her parents became financially challenged after they were laid off from their jobs.

“I’m pretty self-motivated, so when things get hard or discouraging, I take a moment to brush it off. I know I’m capable of achieving, even though I know it won’t be easy,” said Morrison.

Her dream of becoming a forensic scientist inched closer to becoming a reality when she received the call that she would be receiving the scholarship through UWIDEF.

“Actually being recognised for my potential and capability really helps me to establish within myself that I shouldn’t ever doubt myself and that I’m capable of great things,” added Morrison.

Inspired by the perseverance of students such as Morrison, the National Baking Company Foundation decided to move from its annual contribution to UWIDEF for one student each year and took the initiative to independently extend its assistance to two additional deserving students pursuing their education at other university.

One of the selected students was Renea Panton who is pursuing a Master of Education degree in Special Education at the Mico University College.

Her journey to pursuing higher education had been halted due to her inability to pay her tuition fees. Panton faced further trouble when her son was diagnosed with severe autism.

“I immediately went into depression, but one day, I looked into the mirror and I said, ‘Okay, if I continue to do this, what is to become of my child? I need to be his biggest support’,” said Panton as as she reflected on the pivotal moments in her life that catapulted her into becoming an advocate for children with ‘different abilities’, and not ‘disabilities’.

“I made a decision there and then that I would read, watch, research, speak to any and everybody that I can speak to about autism.”

Panton’s decision to become formally educated was not only for her to become the best help for her son, but to help others, especially parents.

“If the parents aren’t empowered, then our children won’t be,” said Panton as she explained how the inability of parents to understand, or accept, special needs children becomes a breeding ground for inappropriate management and nurturing of the children who need them most.

The National Baking Company Foundation has long recognised that there is a serious deficit in the country’s qualified special needs teachers, and Panton’s plea for support resonated with the foundation’s emphasis on early childhood education.

The foundation was also able to assist former Wolmer’s Boys’ School Deputy Head Boy Damion Drackett to continue his studies at the Saint Leo University in Florida, where he is reading for a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology – Biomedical and Health Sciences.

“The fact that National was the company which looked at me and decided that it would help me because it believed I could do it, was just wow,” said Drackett, as he expressed his thankfulness to the foundation for playing a part in assisting him to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Christine Scott-Brown, executive director of the National Baking Company Foundation, has encouraged the three students who received assistance last year to remain steadfast in their journey to higher education for the betterment of their lives and the lives of Jamaicans.

“Perseverance has and will always be the key, never give up on your dreams, there is always a way. Never be ashamed of your circumstances and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And when you have an opportunity, pay it forward,” said Scott-Brown.


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