Sun | Jul 12, 2020

Eternally grateful - GoFundMe campaigns give brilliant teens shot at dream universities

Published:Saturday | May 23, 2020 | 12:00 AMJamila Litchmore/Special Projects and Engagement Editor
Like many other students, Michael ‘MJ’ Forbes, who hopes to attend Canada’s York University this year, has been preparing for his final CAPE examinations through home study.
Yashieka Fearon, who was accepted to more than 20 universities, is hoping to attend her first choice, Howard, in August.
A GoFundMe campaign was launched by Sol Adventurers Foundation to take care of Yashieka Fearon’s additional costs after her receipt of a full-tuition scholarship.
Michael Jovan Anthony Forbes (centre) with his father, Michael Anthony Forbes (left), and mother, Shelly Forbes, at their St Catherine home.
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AS THEY campaign to raise funds to attend their dream universities, two Jamaican students are teaching the country an important lesson – there are no insurmountable boundaries or barriers to achieving one’s aims and objectives.

Upper-sixth-form students Michael Jovan Anthony ‘MJ’ Forbes and Yashieka Fearon are using GoFundMe to pursue their dreams of higher education, and with donations coming in, these aspirations now have the possibility of becoming a reality.

A student of Manchester High School, Fearon, who received nine grade ones at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level and four grades ones and a two in Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), began her college application process in December of 2019, applying to more than 20 colleges and universities, including the Adelphi, Hofstra, Clark Atlanta, and Tuskegee universities.

She was accepted into all and received a full-tuition scholarship for most but notes that Howard University, one of the top historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States, was her “first choice”.

“Howard always caught my eye. I fell in love with it [when] I started my college search. I always wanted to be surrounded by black excellence at college, so I narrowed my search down to mainly HBCUs, and when I encountered Howard, it was just love at first sight, really. I fell in love with the strong black culture there,” said Fearon.

However, though she received a full-tuition scholarship valued at US$27,000 per year, the additional costs put Howard out of the teenager’s reach.

“When I first received my scholarship and I realised how much I would have to pay, it was very disheartening because I knew I couldn’t pay that, but my mom always said to me, ‘Hey, you’re going to go. I don’t know how you’re going to go, but you’re going to go’,” recounted Fearon.

A week before her GoFundMe campaign was launched, she was approached by Sol Adventurers Foundation, a non-profit based in California with an altruistic aim: getting her to college.

Fearon’s campaign was created on May 13 and, up to press time, had raised US$16,424 of the US$21,990 goal through more than 500 donors. The 19-year-old says she is incredibly grateful for the support.

“I am eternally grateful. I am overjoyed; I am every synonym for excited. It’s beautiful what can be done when Jamaicans come together and say, ‘Hey, we are going to support this person’,” said Fearon, who hopes to become a pharmaceutical scientist and looks to major in biology on a pre-pharmacy track.

Her advice to dreamers: “If you have a dream, protect it. You hold on to it, and you pursue it because no matter how difficult it may seem, once you’re passionate about something and you’re going after it, you will reap what you sow.”

FORBES HAS SIGHTS SET ON YORK

Forbes, a student at Glenmuir High School who received 11 grade ones in CSEC and four grade ones and a two in CAPE, began applying to university in January of this year.

With cost being prohibitive, he applied to two universities – The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, and York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

At The UWI, he applied to the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and pharmacology programmes and social sciences department for international relations and economics, while at York, he applied to do biology and psychology.

He received his York acceptance in March and received a one-time scholarship of CDN$10,000 for the academic year. He was also accepted into the Faculty of Social Sciences at The UWI, with the acceptance into the MBBS programme pending his results in CAPE Unit II subjects.

Like Fearon, the cost was initially a deterrent for 19-year-old Forbes. His father, Michael Anthony Forbes, recently battled a major illness.

“When we looked at it, it was from a financial point of view that we saw a difficulty, in that for quite a while now, we are a one-income family, and I’m that sole person, and back in 2016, most of our little savings that was put towards [his education] was wiped out because I had a serious illness. I had cancer, and to treat it, it wiped out all my savings. I was home from work for almost eight months while I was going through treatments and other things, so finance was our biggest issue,” said the elder Forbes.

Forbes’ GoFundMe campaign was started by his sister, Peta-Gaye Mattie, on May 16. Up to press time, it had raised US$710 of the US$25,000 goal through 15 donors. He has until June 15 to indicate his acceptance of the offer from York and apply for residency. With the hope of studying to become a psychiatrist, he’s hoping the campaign will get more traction.

Though his parents would rather have him closer to home, they are encouraged by his drive and ambition and are ready to help him reach his goals “by all means”.

FUTURE PLANS

As for the future, both Fearon and Forbes are looking forward to returning after their studies. Fearon has her sights on developing the pharmaceutical industry locally and Forbes, making his mark in psychiatry.

But for now, as Jamaica and the world face the current coronavirus pandemic, their ambitions and fearless pursuit of their dreams give hope and foster unity during what has been a difficult and unprecedented time.

 

To donate to Yashieka Fearon’s campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/f/help-yashieka-get-to-howard-university. To donate to Michael Forbes’ campaign, visit gofundme.com/f/help-send-michael-to-york-university. Have a good story you’d like to share? Email us at goodheart@gleanerjm.com.

jamila.litchmore@gleanerjm.com