Pursuing post-secondary education in the United States was a bit too expensive at the time and even though the Caribbean was an option, Kittitian Rae-Gean Jenkins favoured a study experience preferably in North America.
At her mother’s suggestion, Jenkins applied to Canadian universities and was accepted by York University seven years ago. She successfully completed a Bachelor’s in Public Policy & Administration in 2008 and a Graduate Certificate in Public Management & Governance at the University of Ottawa.
Currently enrolled in the University of Waterloo Master’s in Environmental Studies Geography – Tourism Policy & Planning program, Jenkins was the recipient of a $4,000 Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) scholarship, awarded to Caribbean nationals pursuing tourism and hospitality studies.
More than 190 nationals have benefited from CTO scholarships and grants worth nearly $700,000 since the CTO Foundation, which administers the program, was established in 1997.
“The initiative is part of CTO’s commitment to developing the region’s human resource capacity and supporting a well-trained, competent and efficient work force so that the region can be globally competitive,” said Bonita Morgan, the CTO’s director of human resources.
Jenkins said she discovered the scholarship program by accident.
“I went into the CTO website to get some statistics for a paper I was doing when I found out they offered scholarships,” she said. “It was like running into a gold mine and I immediately applied. Even though my parents were assisting me with tuition, I am a very independent person and this scholarship could not have come at a better time.”
Jenkins’ Trinidad & Tobago-born mother, Claudette Jenkins, is a former St. Kitts & Nevis magistrate who now holds the post of Intellectual Property & Copyright registrar while her father, Peter, is a civil engineer.
The scholarship covers close to 80 per cent of tuition cost for a semester. The salary she receives as a teaching assistant at the University of Waterloo helps to cover the rest of her tuition.
Jenkins’ goal is to become a tourism consultant and preferably to return to the Caribbean to utilize and share her professional skills.
“I would like to work on developing tourism-related projects in St. Kitts & Nevis or any other Caribbean country,” said Jenkins, who expects to graduate next year.
Using St. Kitts as a case study, her Master’s thesis seeks to show the linkages between tourism and agriculture and how that can spawn entrepreneurial activities.
In between her studies in Ontario, Jenkins taught English Language and Literature for a year at Basseterre High School and was an assistant permanent secretary for eight months with the St. Kitts & Nevis’ Ministry of Agriculture.
“In that role as a junior policy advisor, I was able to develop solid leadership, critical thinking, multi-tasking, decision-making and problem solving skills,” said Jenkins. “It also offered me the opportunity to apply sound professional judgement when interpreting information to write and apply government policies and procedures with minimal supervision and direction.”
Jenkins said she has enjoyed her time in Canada, even though she has no relatives in this country.
“When I first came here to enrol in York, I was astounded by the size of the student population which is close to that of St. Kitts,” she recalled. “I however like trees and green spaces, of which there are a lot here, especially in Waterloo.”
Jenkins is the only CTO scholarship winner this year to be pursuing studies in Canada.
BY RON FANFAIR