Christmas is the season of giving and feelings of great joy and cheer. However, as we get caught in the flurry of activities surrounding purchasing gifts for our friends and loved ones, we often forget the greatest gifts we could ever give- love and time. Samantha-Kaye Christie is a 23 year old Leo who never forgets these two important gifts regardless of the season. She obtained a Bachelor of Sciences degree (with first class honours) in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (Mona) and she is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Education degree at the Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom. I caught up with her recently to find out more about the impactful life she lives and her Christmas plans.
Are there any charitable activities that you will be participating in this Christmas?
I can definitely say that I will be contributing to the GFS (Girl's Society) at my current church St Michael's in the Hamlet. I have become a recent volunteer to the group. They will be hosting different Christmas activities and need a few extra hands in their endeavours. I have also just completed training in becoming a Certified Volunteer within the Knowsley City Council, Liverpool. As such, after certification in just a few days, I will be placed in a local school to assist with educational and reading development. I am really anticipating this experience.
You have been involved in several social outreach activities. Can you name a few?
Wow....as I reflect upon all my experiences, I realize that I have made myself available to a variety of domains. However, the first that comes to mind is definitely the "Read to Lead" Initiative. This was a project that was launched at The Jamaican Christian Boys Home during the summer of 2013.The focus of the project was to develop a programme where the boys would see the value of reading and also to cultivate a spirit of volunteerism. This latter trait was developed by allowing boys who were stronger in reading to assist those who had difficulties. Of course, we had to include sports as I believe that this is an essential part of the learning process and the boys enjoyed their games of basketball and cricket.
I also co-coordinated and taught at The Rex Nettleford Hall's Summer Camp for two consecutive summers. There, we developed a myriad of teaching and learning strategies in an attempt to contribute to the holistic development of participants. While residing at Rex Hall, I became the External Affairs Chairperson. This opportunity to serve lent itself to eye-opening experiences and the need for more focus to be placed on not only the process of education but also the quality of education being imparted to the future generations.
Most recently, I was the co-captain and Squad Leader for the Alvin Day's Mentorship Programme. This was launched under Jamaica's "I Believe" Initiative which I believe is a very good effort on the part of the Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
I have also made active contributions to the Junior Chamber International Organization, The University of the West Indies Special Needs Centre, Beecham Methodist's Vacation Bible School, The Faculty of Social Sciences Honour Society and The UWI Guild HOPE Project.
What is your ultimate dream?
Undoubtedly, without even thinking, I would say that my ultimate dream is to engage in ground-breaking research. I am an avid believer in evidential based teaching and learning strategies. More importantly, it is my aim to develop a Centre for the Learner in Difficulty which will not only focus on implementing effective teaching strategies for students with learning differences, but will also provide diagnoses and engage in research of the highest caliber. Additionally, I want to provide scholarships for students with learning differences as I have come to the realization that these are practically non-existent in the Jamaican realm. Of course, I know this will not be an easy task, but with the help of God "All things are possible". This may sound cliché but it is that simple. God always amazes me and He is an on time God so I will continue on this path as I know this will make an invaluable contribution to sustainable development. As far as I am concerned once I have God in my corner....the sky is the limit!
What made you decide that you want to work with students who have a learning difference?
Initially, it was my intention to become a world-renowned journalist. However, based on personal experience with my brother (who has a learning disorder), I yearned to make a contribution to the field of special education. As I reflect upon Einstein's quote which states "If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid ",I want to place myself in a position to implement change within the realm of education. I absolutely promote the term "learning difference" instead of "learning difficulty" as the latter attaches a negative stereotype to the issue faced by persons with dyslexia for example. More attention needs to be given to the fact that dyslexic students learn differently and there is no "one size fits all". It is my aim to unveil the most effective strategies to assist students who learn differently when compared to the norm. We definitely need to pursue investments in developing the self-confidence and self-efficacy of these individuals.
Do you believe that your work has made an impact in other's lives?
Most definitely and I say this with reference to my time at The Jamaica Christian Boys Home. I felt a burst of joy and positive vibrations whenever I visited the home and when it came time to leave in order to further my studies, they cried. I must admit, I shed some as well. In that moment, I realized that they appreciated the work I had been doing for them. I continue to keep in touch by sending them post-cards just to communicate words of inspiration.
I have also seen my impact materializing in the form of initiative. After a number of sessions with the boys, I realized that instead of waiting for my beaconing to read, they commenced independent reading. What made my heart smile was one day as I stepped into the room, they were already assisting each other to read different story-books. This is the form of intrinsic motivation that educations should aim to entrench in young minds!
Recently, I was also filled with joy when one day, while purchasing food items, a young lady approached me and said "Is you did come to our school [Holy Trinity] and do the programme, yes is you. Miss Tank you we really enjoyed the programme and mek sure unno continue." Initially, I did not recognize her (as I am quite poor with faces and names at times),but after conversing with her I began to recount the events and this definitely contributed to adding positivity to that day.
Would you say that you are on the road to accomplishing your dream?
I am a little bit close than yesterday. I am definitely excited and humbled by the experience to not only have the opportunity to pursue my Masters Degree, but to be engaging with a number of world-renowned researchers. I love research and the value that comes with its findings. Therefore, pursuing postgraduate studies has placed me on an even greater path to achieve my set objectives. If the situation permits me, I plan to conduct my Master's Dissertation study in Jamaica as I want research of this kind to have an impact upon the Jamaican education sector.
Have you ever felt discouraged especially when you were not sure how you would get the funds to pursue your masters? What did you do to overcome this discouragement?
This is quite a funny question. The answer is a resounding YES! However looking back, I realized that my spirit and determination can be compared to a Duracell battery...I kept on going. Of course, I will admit it was difficult as it was my intention to commence postgraduate studies directly after completing my Bachelors degree. However, fate would have its own way and I did not obtain a scholarship in that given time period. I was disheartened and terrified. However, I believe that I was delayed for a purpose and it was fulfilled through my reading initiative and the lives I've touched. During that time, I also lead a mentorship group which cushioned the negative feelings I may have encountered. I continued to apply for scholarships and the offers came from all over UK and China. I decided to study in Liverpool as the environment is conducive to learning and one receives individualized attention. I would definitely encourage persons who feel discouraged to simply pursue educational opportunities and become involved in activities found in positive and uplifting environments. If you need any assistance or just a word of motivation, I would be more than delighted to offer any aid. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
What advice would you give to people reading this blog to help them to follow their dreams?
Delay does not mean denial. Instead, it means that you have been given just a little more time to prepare. However, when you lose please do not and I repeat do not lose the lesson. After all if it comes too easy, what stories will you have to tell your children and grand-children? If you realize that Plan A is not working, try Plan B or even plan C. There are 23 more letters (plans) in the alphabet! That means if an initial idea does not come to fruition in the expected time, try to approach it from a different perspective. It's just a matter of not giving up. I know there is a force to be reckoned with in each and every individual. It is our duty to find the place where our impact will be felt the most and pursue it with all our heart. Recognize your talents, seek out resources to develop them and then pursue your dreams. It's really that simple.
What advice would you give to people reading this blog about relationships?
You'll know when you find it. When I say it, I mean something genuine and someone that is real. Put God at the forefront of your decisions. Tell him what you want or the type of person you want....write a prayer with the qualities that you want in a husband or a wife. Then pray for that. Of course God will answer in his own time: perhaps a day, a month, a year, ten years (hopefully not that long),but what I am trying to get across is that God is an on time God. Do not look for the hype or the swag because swag DOES NOT pay bills. Instead recognize the ambitious ones. Many times these individuals have been placed in a "friend zone". Sometimes, we need to re-evaluate our choices and realize who will be our shoulder and strength after a hard day. Of course we all haven't made the right choices about love and no one is perfect. However, we can make positive strides by choosing with wisdom. Love is not difficult to find once you place your trust in God and Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all other things shall be added unto you. Remember YOU are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you .