Children in State care get scholarships valued at US,000

Children in State care get scholarships valued at US$52,000

Chairman and founder of Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) Gary Williams (left), minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Dana Morris Dixon (second left) and son of the late Marcia Erskine, Machel Erskine (right) presenting the Marcia Erskine scholarship award to first-year UTech student Rayon Davis at the COJO scholarship award ceremony on Wednesday.

FIFTEEN students from State care homes were granted scholarships totalling US$52,000 on Wednesday by the Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) to assist in their pursuit for higher education.

Based in New York, United States, COJO is a non-profit organisation established in 1994 with the aim of helping to improve the health, education and general well-being of undeserved children in Jamaica and United States. COJO, which derived its abbreviation from Cudjoe, a Maroon leader who fought against slavery in Jamaica during the 19th century, has since its establishment contributed more than US$300,000 to support young adults in State care in Jamaica, enabling them to access tertiary education.

Chief executive officer of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency Laurette Adams Thomas on Wednesday described COJO’s 30 years of contribution as transformational to the education sector and the lives of many underprivileged youth.

“For three decades COJO has been a beacon of hope for undeserved youths in Jamaica and beyond from humble beginnings. Through a labour of love project in 1994 to the establishment of the transition living programme scholarship initiative in 2012, COJO has remained steadfast in its mission to uplift and to empower our youth,” Adams told the COJO Scholarship Award Luncheon at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator Dana Morris Dixon, in the keynote address, encouraged awardees to embrace the challenges they faced and to capitalise on the opportunity given to them.

“Life is a great adventure filled with unexpected challenges. These obstacles are not setbacks but opportunities to grow and mould ourselves into the remarkable individuals who are destined for greatness. Challenges are often seen as some of the worst moments in our lives, but I know for me in my own life, periods of challenge also led to periods of love,” she said.

Chairman and founder of COJO Gary Williams, whilst congratulating the awardees, used the opportunity to remember former journalist and public relations practitioner Marcia Erskine, who died in March.

Describing her as irreplaceable, Williams acknowledged Erskine’s contribution to the organisation and announced the introduction of the Marcia Erskine Scholarship which was valued at US$5,000 for one of the 15 students.

Recipient of this inaugural award, Rayon Davis, a first-year student at the University of Technology (UTech) Jamaica, expressed gratitude at being the first to receive it.

“I feel good because I know the work I put in, the nights and days and weeks I put in, and all the hard work, and just seeing this opportunity come so that I can receive this scholarship so I can really pursue my education, my dreams and my career… it’s a good feeling,” he said.

Davis, who grew up at the City of Refuge Children’s Home from the age of six and who is pursuing a first degree in communications arts and technology, said that his love for media and marketing are the driving force behind his hard work, despite the setbacks.

“The struggle of studying and getting equipment and other things to work has been very hard for me, and I had to push 10 times harder to get things done; at one point I did not have a laptop so I had to push through to get a laptop,” he said.

Davis said he wants to pursue marketing and work towards starting his own business, noting that the scholarship will play a big part in reaching his goals.

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