If you are ever seeking a reason to support the University of the West Indies (UWI) Toronto fundraiser, look no further than the scholarship recipients and the pride with which they accept these awards.
Most of these young people come from families that are struggling to make ends meet and many enter UWI with just enough funds to sustain them through the first semester. Not knowing how they will continue much less complete their university education are daunting possibilities several of them face.
Jamaican Rojel Bradford was in that predicament a few years ago.
“There was no money and I thought I was going to have to sit out my second term,” said the UWI Toronto gala scholarship beneficiary, who attended the sixth annual fundraiser last Saturday night. “At the last moment, I got some funding from the student loan bureau to finish the first year.”
With a Can$3,000 scholarship at the start of his second year, Bradford has been able to concentrate on his studies.
“My mother is unemployed and my father is a carpenter which is a seasonal job, so there is always little or no money in our household,” the Manchester High School graduate said. “But I was not going to let that or the gang violence that plagues my community prevent me from seeking higher education. I want to be a role model for the young people in my neighbourhood.”
Bradford just completed his third year last week of a five-year Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery degree program at the Mona campus.
For the past three years, a UWI Toronto gala scholarship beneficiary has attended the annual event to represent the other winners and relate the impact the scholarship has made in their life.
“You have granted me the opportunity to be the first in my family to attend university,” Bradford told the audience that included Brandon University president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Gervan Fearon; Ontario Court of Appeal judge, Michael Tulloch and deputy police chiefs, Peter Sloly and Andre Crawford.
“My intention in the future is to help other students in the same way that you have reached out to me. This scholarship has not only enabled me to settle my financial affairs at school, but it has allowed me to get involved in numerous clubs and societies. I am committed to becoming a great surgeon, maybe like Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong (he’s a senior consulting physician at the University Health Network and this year’s gala co-chair). Thanks for the vote of confidence you have placed in me.”
The fourth of six children, 23-year-old Bradford said his mother inspired him to study medicine.
“She has a cardiovascular problem and it pains me to see her in agony,” he said. “No one it seemed could help her. I want to be that person that could assist her and others who have similar challenges.”
Making it through the first year in the Faculty of Science & Technology was extremely challenging for Bradford.
“There were many sleepless nights and tears and the library was like my home,” he said. “I cut myself off from family and friends for much of that time and adopted new friends, biology, chemistry and mathematics. I was committed to having a relationship with all three. I was determined to give 100 per cent of my effort to get into the Faculty of Medical Science.”
Following his graduation, Bradford – who hadn’t travelled outside Jamaica before last week – will do his one-year internship at an approved hospital.