Racquel Simpson, Youthlink Writer
IT TOOK the generous initiative of corporate entity NCB Foundation to give 22-year-old Bertram Fearon the opportunity to obtain tertiary qualifications and create a better life for himself.
Fearon was the 2008 NCB Foundation grant recipient for Trelawny. The scholarship award covered the cost of his tuition throughout his chemical engineering course at the University of Technology, from which he recently graduated.
Receiving that grant, he said, revived his self-worth.
Youthlink (YL): How exactly did the grant change your life and what impact did it have on your studies?
Bertram Fearon (BF): The fact that I applied, doubtlessly among many, and was selected, reassured me that I had legitimate potential to excel academically and professionally. It changed my life by boosting my self-esteem, reassuring me of my God-given abilities. Quite often I would beam with gratitude silently in my heart, when exam time drew near. I could boldly step up to the counter, show my ID, sign my name and claim my exam card! Many of my classmates did not have that luxury! Needless to say, school was far less burdensome and I was only left with legitimate exam worries.
YL: Had you not received this grant, what would have been your other option(s) to pay your tuition?
BF: Quite likely I would have had to apply for a student loan and consider a part-time or summer employment.
YL: What sacrifices did you have to make to retain the grant?
BF: I had to sacrifice time to volunteer each yearend, a day or two, a bus fare or two (lol), to serve either at the NCB Foundation offices or at some needy school, doing painting, etc. This meant a delay in returning home to Trelawny, where my immediate family resides. Most important, I had to maintain a B average in order to retain the grant for the following year. Therefore, a lot of hard work had to be put in.
YL: Did you find any of your duties as grant recipient difficult, considering you had studies on which to focus?
BF: No. After all, I had received freely in a time of great need. As a matter of fact, I believed I got away! The annual volunteering was done at the end of the semester when exams were over. Plus, I was repeatedly given the option of doing a one-day project with other student volunteers or a few days of office work. Nothing to cry about, trust me.
YL: How do you feel about corporate companies that offer programmes like these, and what would you say to those that don't?
BF: I feel really proud of these entities and their commitment to corporate social responsibility. To those entities that can afford to but do not give back, you are missing out on a most worthwhile investment!
YL: Having gained such financial aid from NCB Foundation, would you consider initiating your own way of giving back too?
BF: Most assuredly. Even in the absence of a company, I have been inspired and plan to invest in the education of others. My kindness may never be showcased in Youthlink (laughs) but somebody, somewhere, will have a life-changing story to tell.