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Knox College student gets help to fulfil medical school dream

With her professional sights set on becoming an obstetrician and gynaecologist, Eliaejah Harris found herself daunted by financial limitations to fund her tuition last year.

"I come from a humble background and, in the past, money was not simply put aside waiting to be spent on my education. However, I knew it would work out and the resources for sixth form would come from somewhere," the confident adolescent from Trout Hall, Clarendon, recalled.

A lifeline came Harris' way last August when her Caribbean Advanced Proficient Examination biology teacher at Knox College, where Harris was enrolled, suggested she apply for the Jacqueline R. Satchell (JRS) Foundation scholarship. The grant was founded in 2021 in New Haven, Connecticut, in the US by the family of the late Jamaican-American physician, for whom it is named. To honour her legacy, the foundation offers Jamaican high school students financial support towards furthering their scholastic pursuits. The Red Hills, St Andrew-raised Satchell, who passed away in 2020, migrated to the US as a teenager. Her passion for lifelong learning led to a career in medicine that culminated in her serving as a clinician educator and internal medicine physician at the Veteran Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, and as the director of the Women's Clinic which now bears her name.

Harris noted that her teacher forwarded the scholarship's essay contest poster to her last August and said, 'Give it a try!'

"The very next day I began writing on the theme -- 'I Am' -- and decided my essay would encapsulate every aspect of me," the 18-year-old young divulged. "I wrote about how I viewed myself in different contexts and how others perceived me. I highlighted that I saw myself as a unique individual, instead of being defined by how others described me."

Oneil Williams, executive director of the JRS Foundation, and Satchell's brother, said that the judging committee was elated at the quality of last year's submissions.

"The students floored us with their creativity and exemplary writing skills," he remarked. "The combined scores of the judges in categories such as grammar, clarity, adherence, uniqueness, and vocabulary, helped us arrive at the final winners." Olivia Reid from Linton's Academic Services finished second, and Trishelle Gooden of Knox College was third.

"My sister, Jackie, was my everything! My face lit up every time I got a phone call from her," Williams lovingly remembered. "We would laugh hysterically on every phone call and encourage each other in our respective careers. When it came to education, Jackie believed this was a pathway to success. The entire family remembers her studying by the light of a kerosene lamp in the cool mountains of Red Hills."

He said in the short term, the foundation is aware of the immediate need for financial assistance for students in underserved communities. Locsanity, a US-based company that specialises in hair-care products for dreadlocks, has committed to sponsoring the prizes for the essay contest in perpetuity.

"Our future plans are to have empowerment camps and a mentorship platform that connects students with mentors who can help keep them on a path to success," Williams said.

As the scholarship's first beneficiary of a $75,000 grant, Harris revealed that she is about to commence her undergraduate studies in the upcoming academic year.

"I will be pursuing courses that align with my goal of becoming a medical professional. I aspire to complete my first bachelor of science degree, secure a spot in medical school, and train to be a doctor," she disclosed.

Interested students applying for this year's scholarship are required to submit an essay on this year's topic 'Knowledge is Power'. All submissions must be completed at https://jrs.foundation and should not exceed 1,000 words. Applicants will need to submit a photograph of themselves and also be recommended by an educator or approved member of staff of their high school. The deadline for submissions is July 24.