WIGUT Awardee Cordia Chambers Reflects

Cordia ChambersI am originally from the Parish of St. James, where I attended the Herbert Morrison Technical High School. I began working after fifth form, and after a year, with the encouragement of my family, I decided to return to school. In 2003, I enrolled at UWI’s Undergraduate College in Montego Bay and then sat the GCE A' levels. I was determined to attend a university and was inspired to apply to the UWI by my high school English teacher, my undergraduate Psychology teacher, and my friend Marissa Forbes, as they are all alumni. I asked myself, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

     After a mix-up with the admission process, a rushed move to Portmore and a challenging registration, I finally got in. I had worked for three years prior to starting classes at the UWI, saving to pay my tuition. I thought this would have been adequate to cover my expenses as I was under the impression that the tuition included books. However, I soon learned otherwise. At the end of first year, after financing tuition, books, travelling, housing and other contingencies, I was broke. Reluctantly, I applied to the Student’s Loan Bureau (SLB) for a loan. I was now more stressed than ever.

     My tuition for second year was paid but I had little cash to meet my daily needs. I started seeking viable options, so I met with Dr. Thelora Reynolds, Director of Student Services and Development, stated my case and inquired about possible financial assistance. She was helpful and directed me to the Office of Student Financing (OSF). There, I submitted an application for financial aid and was blessed with meal tickets monthly and a book grant valued at JA$10,000. I also benefitted from the Guild of Students Needy Student Fund. For the next academic year I decided, “No more SLB for me.” I enrolled in the Jamaica Values and Attitudes Project for Tertiary Students JAMVAT programme for Student Assistance through the National Youth Service, where a percentage of the tuition is paid in exchange for hours of Voluntary Service. The balance was self-financed through my initiative in the Work and Travel Summer programme for College Students, where I worked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for three months and two weeks. I second-guessed myself when I ran into financial difficulty after buying myself a laptop computer, a multipurpose printer and repaying two personal loans. I was expecting to receive JAMVAT’s tuition aid in time to cover an outstanding $20,000 on my tuition. However, this did not materialize and I was eventually deregistered. I fell into a state of depression, but then I remembered a well-known saying: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I registered for second semester with a new and positive attitude. By the end of this semester I applied for the annual scholarships and bursaries from the OSF. As a result, for my final year I received a total of JA$95,000 in bursaries, inclusive of the WIGUT Bursary and a Co-Curricular Bursary.

     These bursaries provided me with financial comfort and a stress-free environment in which I was able to able to focus on my studies. Even though I was a commuting student, I was not deterred from participating in campus life. In my first semester, I volunteered at the Office for Students with Special Needs, and I was presented with an Award for Outstanding Performance in Services at the annual Student Awards Ceremony. I also volunteered at the Hope Institute, spent a year in the Spanish Club and participated in the UWI Quality Leadership Programme. These co-curricular activities were avenues for me to enjoy the UWI experience and made me into a more rounded individual. Additionally, I worked at the One-Stop Graduation Centre, and due to my good work ethic I was offered a job at the Public Relations Office at UWI, Mona. I completed my programme and earned an Upper Second Class Honours Degree. I would not have achieved this milestone without the grace of God, who carried me when I could go no further. My family and friends also continually encouraged me, believing in me more than I did in myself.

     I would like to acknowledge the donors of the scholarships and bursaries that enhance the life of students on the Mona campus, especially the WIGUT Bursaries, of which I was a beneficiary. Thank you to all my lecturers and tutors, who gave me opportunities to realize my fullest academic potential. Last, and by no means least, my husband, Jag, for being there from the beginning, supporting me morally, financially, emotionally and just for being my closest friend, thank you