With access to higher education proving difficult for the region's most disadvantaged, the Sandals Foundation has awarded approximately US$60,000 this year through its Care For Kids Scholarship programme to high-performing secondary students in need of financial assistance to pursue tertiary studies at local and international universities.
Sixteen students from across the Caribbean within the scholarship programme are currently pursuing undergraduate degrees in fields ranging from natural sciences education, primary education and educational leadership to mathematics, marine wildlife conservation biology, general medicine, and veterinary medicine.
“It has been a transformative experience for both recipients of the scholarship and the team at the Sandals Foundation,” says Heidi Clarke, Executive Director, “When we started the programme in 2009, our goal was to help students make it through their high school studies. However, having witnessed the unparalleled high performance and dedication of students, we knew it was our responsibility to see them through their studies even further. This year we are so proud of all 39 of our Care For Kids Scholars and especially those starting or continuing their studies at college.”
"We believe in the transformative power of education, and by removing the financial constraints, we have seen how students, many of whom are the first within their households to attend university, have been able to thrive both academically and personally," Clarke continued.
Aaliyah Beneby and Waydeja Rolle, two Care For Kids scholars from Exuma, The Bahamas, are now enrolled in the university and college of their choice in the United States of America, pursuing first degrees in biology and finance, respectively. Both, who are LN Coakley High School graduates were enrolled in the scholarship programme during high school and have received ongoing financial support from the Sandals Foundation as well as additional scholarships from their universities.
Another scholar, Kelsey Jones, a first-year Jamaican Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student now studying at St. George's University in Grenada, explained how this scholarship has aided her academic endeavours.
"Without the scholarship, I would not be half as close to achieving my goal," Jones explained.
"Even if I had worked multiple jobs to save money, it would have taken me years to pay for even half of the programme. The Foundation believes in me and has given me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue my lifelong dream," said Jones, who has a deep passion for animals and wishes to have an impact not only on animal health and welfare but also on human and environmental health.
Through the Care For Kids scholarship programme, students are introduced to mentorship and encouraged to volunteer within their communities, acting as a catalyst for social change.
Nuala Augustine, a second-year student at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in St. Lucia is enabled to make difference.
“The children today are the leaders of tomorrow and there is no better way to instill values in our children than to be present with them, teaching and molding them. Having received this scholarship allows me to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Primary Education and Educational Leadership, and this has poised me to play an integral role in creating the strong foundation that our children will need as they prepare to be our future representatives,” Augustine explained.
For Romarie Bartley, former Head Boy of St. George’s College in Jamaica, charting his future as an aspiring cardiothoracic surgeon, he now enters his seven-year programme to earn a Bachelor's of Medicine degree at the University of Medical Science of Havana in Cuba.
The Care For Kids Scholarship programme was established in 2009 to meet the needs of secondary students, and it covers the costs of tuition, transportation, uniforms, books, and housing for the duration of their studies. As more of its recipients maintained outstanding performance records, the Sandals Foundation expanded the programme's reach to assist students transitioning to tertiary studies. To date, the scholarship programme has benefited a total of 209 students.
The programme is made possible by the generous donations of Sandals and Beaches Resorts guests as well as donors from all over the world who believe in the power of education and want to help it grow in the region.