When Jahmel Brown was younger he heard words that never really left him. They were berating words that also served as his motivation.
Jahmel Brown, who grew up in Tower Hill, St Andrew, was told he would turn out to be “nothing but a cart man” like his father, Richard Brown, who had to transport goods in downtown Kingston via handcart to send him to school.
His mother, Juliet Haye, is also in the picture and is a domestic worker.
Brown, 21, recently graduated from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy and Management, with a minor in international relations. Unsatisfied and inspired, Brown is now pursuing a master’s in international public and development management. He also has a diploma in paralegal studies.
“For me, education was the way out. My story is one of pain, disappointments, and successes. I have won multiple scholarships to attend UWI for free, as well as won numerous awards while being there. My motto is ‘ambition before pride, where no matter the circumstances, I will put away my pride and be the best person I can be’. This motto came as a result of coming from the inner-city and a non-traditional high school,” Brown told Career & Education.
“Earning a degree means everything to me, and that anything can be achieved with the right mindset. For me, there is no impossible situation I cannot overcome now by getting this degree. I did what is considered impossible in my community and family and for me, that will inspire others from my family and community to believe they can do it too. It is not where you are coming from but where you are going,” he continued.
Brown said the journey to this point “was way harder than getting the degree itself”. He cited sleepless nights and mental breakdowns. “I recall going to school most of the time without anything to eat and without bus fare. I’d find myself most days with little to no resources, where oftentimes I would wear one uniform, shoes, and bag to school in each academic year straight up to sixth form,” he said.
“The person I am today and the privilege I have is the one I had to create from scratch. My purpose fuels me but I remain humble and look back at the times I had to start sixth form and university without a dime to now graduating debt-free from an accomplished university.”
But Brown said striving for a degree wasn’t only for him, “but for my mom and aunt, Joan Haye, who have to wash people’s clothes to send me to school to get an education, and for my father who pushes a handcart downtown to support me over the years. I also did this for the persons who supported me throughout the years as well as for my family who did not get this opportunity to begin with. But, most of all, I did this for me, the young boy who once thought this was not possible at all”.
Throughout university, Brown was a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) youth researcher, national youth parliamentarian, and Caribbean Youth Fellow at the International Republican Institute based in the United States, among other things.
His university experience started in 2019 with only $20,000 for his non-refundable commitment fee, that he accumulated by working as a bag attendant at Sangster’s Book Stores.
- 230 UTech Students were Awarded Government of Jamaica STEM Scholarships
- Five Students Receive the 2023 Marubeni/UWIDEF Scholarship
- Derrimon Trading Company is Inspiring Excellence Through Community Outreach
- Barita Foundation to reward outstanding youth scholars with scholarships
- The 2023 NCB Foundation Scholarship is accepting applications for scholarships, grants
- GOJ’s Continuing Strategies to Increase Tertiary Education Financing Access Through Grant In Aids
“I had no hope that I would get to attend this noble institution, but I pulled through to make it happen because my parents could not afford it at all. I had no money to pay for my tuition after finding my commitment fee and ELPT [English Language Proficiency Test] money, but I knew I wanted to attend so I went to every orientation I could, and the last day of orientation, two days before school, I was able to get two scholarships and a grant from a family member to pay for the first semester,” Brown recalled.
The Tarrant High School alumnus said another challenge had presented itself. He said he did not have enough clothes to attend university during his first year.
“A teacher at my high school gave me some clothes to wear and from there, I was able to attend university. I recall walking to Half-Way-Tree to get to school in late October, after my parents could no longer afford to give me adequate money,” he said.
“I was not shocked by that because I was receiving little to no money for school over the years, and I knew how to adapt but regardless, it was hard having financial constraints most of the time. My university experience was remarkable, yes, but it was hard to go through.”
Entering the second semester, Brown said he was hit by an even bigger challenge — the novel coronavirus pandemic — and navigating university without a laptop for virtual classes was overbearing.
“I was able to borrow a tablet from the library later in the semester and every semester since then, but it was hard to do my work with the tablet and I had to revert to my phone. I am grateful for the tablet from the library, but it was not without challenges in using it. My mental health hit a dive in university in the second year, second semester having to use my phone most of the times, despite having a tablet that froze sometimes while doing work,” he related.
“In my third year I was able to get a Chromebook from the library to use for the first and second semesters and it really helped me to get my degree. My university experience was not all doom and gloom all the time because I was able to work hard despite so many challenges.”
Indubitable, Jahmel Brown has always been accustomed to challenges, going as far back as suffering a broken arm a little before his Grade Six Achievement Test. Nonetheless, the youngster maintained that his greatest challenge has always been finance and clothing.
“My financial constraints over the years have limited me from certain opportunities, but I was able to overcome them with persistence which allowed me to be resilient in moving forward. I wanted to drop out during my second year, but I was able to overcome it and get a JMMB Joan Duncan Scholarship to continue university. I am the first in my immediate family to attend university.
“I knew I had to set an example and do right by my mom, aunt and my father. For these reasons, I knew I could not give up or accept mediocrity because they spend their last on me to become better and I was their last hope, and for me, that meant everything. I have four brothers who did not get the same experience educationally.
My family supports me wholeheartedly and admire me for my resilience in making it this far. I feel proud of myself for knowing that I have worked hard for what I now have.”
Source: Jahmel Brown: Ambition before pride – as published in the JamaicaObserver.com.