Due to the vast number of needs within the education system of Jamaica, it is commonplace for unique individuals and circumstances to become as ‘needles in a haystack’. A needle may only be found when it pricks the searcher.
Buff Bay a rural community in the parish of Portland can be likened to a haystack in the wider scheme of communities in Jamaica, while Buff Bay Primary School is the beacon among the other primary schools of Portland. The school was vandalized and its computer room burnt out, but the vandalism and fire were the sharp point of the needles that coerced the searcher Jamaica Awareness Association of California, JAAC to look in that direction and find an outstanding individual inside the haystack. .
As is the nature of JAAC to seek out needy individuals, the organization was pricked and it responded to the need to rebuild a computer room, it was during that process that Ackime Thomas was found. Ackime Thomas, currently a first year student at the University of the West Indies Mona, could have been a “lost needle” living in Buff but he became the beneficiary of scholarships from JAAC for his 5 years in high school and two years 6th form. Yasmin Facey, President during the ordeal remembers Ackime said to her that he wanted to attend Calabar High School and was willing to travel from Buff Bay to Kingston for school. Ackime did just that for an entire year, however the membership of this noble organization would not allow that any further and extended an offer to board Ackime in Kingston instead. With that, transportation/travel would not be a deterrent for success and for the future of this very brilliant young man.
I had an opportunity to ask Ackime Thomas a few questions via email. His answers are direct and succinct and are reported verbatim.
Leo: Good day Ackime, I am writing a feature in the JAAC 2015 Program Book for our Annual Banquet.
Ackime: I hope you are enjoying the Beijing championships as much as we are in Jamaica. Thank you again for taking an interest in my future.
Leo: What does going to University of the West Indies mean to you?
Ackime: Attending the University of the West Indies is a tremendous accomplishment for me. I am the first in my family to reach the Tertiary Level. Most importantly, it means that I have an opportunity to qualify for the University’s Medical Program.
Leo: How did this come about? Give us history.
Ackime: I started my formal education at the Buff Bay Primary, Portland. After the GSAT Examination I was enrolled in Calabar High School, Kingston, where I studied for seven year; five years for CSEC Examination and Two years for Cape. I received 8 CSEC (O ‘Level) subjects and 9 Units of CAPE (A ‘Level equivalent).
Leo: Where are you from in Jamaica? Describe your upbringing. (Include schools attended? Growing up as a child did you envision this? What were your dreams as a child?
Ackime: I grew up not knowing my biological father and was raised by my mother in Buff Bay Portland. My mother had five children, I was the oldest, and she worked as a Janitor while my step-father struggled to maintain a steady job (he was more unemployed than employed). Due to the financial constraints, attending primary school was a challenge. There were days, when I went without lunch and the proper tools for school. As a child, I knew that if I wanted a “better life”, I needed to attend high school, matriculate into University and earn my degree. I could not envision that one day I would have reached this far, until I met JAAC.
Leo: Did you feel satisfied with where you are in life? What are your current aspirations? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Ackime: At Calabar I learned to strive for “The Utmost of the Highest”. I have accomplished a lot but I am not satisfied yet. Since I was a child I always wanted to become a Medical Doctor. At the moment I am working on gaining admittance into the University’s Medical Program. Within the next 10 Years, with continued hard work, discipline, determination and faith in the Lord, I am hoping to achieve this childhood dream.
Leo: What is your full name?
Ackime: Ackime Kemar Thomas
Leo: Who inspired you? Who are the people who impact your life most and why?
My mother even though she did not complete the formal education system she instilled in me the value of higher education. My mother really inspire me, because I want to be able to improve her standard of living. However, the persons who impacted my life the most, would have to be the members of JAAC, Mrs. Viretta Perry, Mrs. Claudette Grant, Mrs. Daisy Saunders and Caren Adam. Just the thought that they believed in me and invested in me, propels me to achieve my dreams.
Leo: How did you learn about JAAC? What do you know about them?
Ackime: The Jamaica Awareness Association of California is a non-profit, charitable organization formed by Jamaicans living in the United States, chiefly in California. Each year there is a mission trip to Jamaica, which has a medical outreach: clinics, surgical seminars and an educational outreach which awards scholarships, donates computer labs to elementary schools, provided technical support and training for the teaching staff.
Meeting JAAC was a miracle. Before 2008 JAAC only operated in St. Mary. However in 2008, my primary school computer lab was destroyed by fire and upon the request of the then Education Officer, JAAC visited my school and I applied for the Enid Davis Scholarship which they offer each year on their education mission. I was later shortlisted and interviewed by the JAAC team and awarded the 2008 scholarship.
The Enid Davis Scholarship is awarded to students entering high school and covers the entire period through to graduation. I consider myself extremely blessed. After completing the five years of high school and graduating with distinctions, my mother’s financial standing did not improve and upon my request JAAC extended the scholarship to include two years of Sixth Form (A ‘Levels)
Leo: How has Jamaica Awareness impacted your life?
Ackime: Honestly, “I am made by JAAC”. Riddled with financial difficulties, which stems from my mother being the sole income earner in a family of seven, my Secondary Education was only made possible through a scholarship from JAAC. The reality is that without JAAC and persons like Mrs. Viretta Perry, Mrs. Claudette Grant and other associates of JAAC, I would not have been able to complete high school. Words can’t express the amount of gratitude and utmost respect that I hold for this organization for the impact it has made in my life.
Leo: What are some of your biggest (current and past) projects/accomplishments?
Ackime: I achieved academic excellence and held leadership positions as Head Boy, Prefect, Vice President and Co-founder of Calabar’s Teen for Technology Club, Vice president of Octagon and Public Relations Officer for the school’s debating society.
JAAC has inspired me to give back to my community in any way possible. I have led volunteering session at The Salvation Army School for the Blind and Visual Impaired and other outreach projects through various clubs and society.
Leo: Where does your family fall into all this? Your life? Your path? Your accomplishments?
Ackime: My family has benefited from my adoption by the JAAC family. With the Enid Davis Scholarship from JAAC, the financial burden on my mother was lessened. Before I was awarded the Scholarship JMD $6000 or US $60 a fortnight supported the entire family. After I was awarded the scholarship, it was one less child to worry about and my mother could focus more on my four younger sisters. Also reaching this far can serve as a motivation to my sisters. They now realize that, they do not have to accept this standard of living, but if they work hard and remain focused on their goals, with the help of God they be can successful.