There is a common saying that states “Nothing in this world worth having comes easy”. Alvin Harris is one of many young people whose life reflects this concept. At the age of twenty-three, he has a B.Sc. in Economics and Statistics and is currently pursuing an MSc in Economics. One would look at his warm smile and charming personality and believe that he has had an almost perfect life. However, Alvin’s life has been riddled with several challenges that he never knew he would be able to overcome. These challenges have created three phases for his life: tragedy, potential, and hope.
Everything in Alvin’s life changed when his father died in 2004 leaving his mother as the sole bread-winner for him and his four siblings. By the time CSEC examinations came around, Alvin had become apathetic towards life and his academics. This resulted in him only passing three of the five subjects for which he had been nominated. His mother decided that it was time for Alvin to work and signed him up for the National Youth Service (NYS). Two days prior to him beginning the program, his older brother died leaving Alvin devastated. This life altering tragedy resulted in Alvin repeating fifth form in 2008 and emerging with five subjects, thus giving him a total of eight subjects.
Alvin could see a bright future ahead of him and was, therefore, determined to go to sixth form. His mother was in no position to support him financially so, Alvin turned to his aunt who supported him throughout the two years of sixth form. Alvin graduated from sixth form with a distinction in Caribbean Studies and credits in Economics, Management Studies, and Caribbean Studies. Alvin realized that he had both an aptitude and love for economics and decided that he had to find a way to go to university. He was accepted at the University of the West Indies (UWI) but had no clear solution to his financial woes. With no guarantors, he was unable to get a student loan but, as fate would have it, he was able to obtain a grant from the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB). He now faced another challenge- finding somewhere to stay.
Alvin had not been accepted to the Hall he had applied to- Preston Hall- and the only other option available was a room on the most expensive hall on campus- Rex Nettleford Hall. He explained his circumstances to the manager of the Office of Student Financing who authorized a $50,000 loan on the condition that he maintained good grades. With a grant of $100,000 from SLB and this loan, Alvin was able to pay his first year of Hall fees.
However, Alvin’s good fortune did not end there. In his second year at UWI he was granted the Development Bank of Jamaica scholarship and by the end of this year, he was placed on the Dean’s List for having a GPA of 3.6. Although Alvin was grateful for this act of benevolence, the scholarship only disbursed $250,000 per year which could only cover his tuition with barely anything left over. How would he pay his hall fee? At the beginning of his third year, he received the UWIREF scholarship that disbursed US$5000 per year…more than enough to cover his tuition and living expenses. So, he rescinded the Development Bank Scholarship and took the UWIREF scholarship.
Tragedy struck again when one of his closest friends died towards the end of the first semester in his third year. This tragic death took an emotional toll on him and resulted in him failing one of his courses. Although he retook the course in the second semester, his GPA was affected thus resulting in him missing the first class honors degree. Nevertheless, he graduated with a 3.5 GPA and applied for the MSc in Economics program. Although he has not yet attained a scholarship to cover the expenses of this degree, he has hope that he will be able to complete the degree and live an extremely successful life. He continues to live by the words of Norman Vincent Peale who said “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy”.