JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation Scholar soars
The constant threat of being homeless, the possibility of becoming a high-school dropout, the diagnosis of her mother with a mental illness, the death of her father, and fighting spells of illness could not dampen the spirit of now 21-year-old Ariana Duggan, second-year accounting major at the UWI, Mona, and a JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation scholar for 2017-18. This effervescent and mild-mannered young lady describes the mountain of challenges that she has faced in the last few years as "character-building", stating, "Challenges either make you into dust or refine you like a diamond; I chose to be refined."
It was during her preparation for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) that Ariana's mother, who was the sole breadwinner for the family, following the passing of her partner a few years before, became hospitalised and later diagnosed with schizophrenia. As a result, Ariana's educational future looked dim and full of uncertainties; as her mother was now unemployed and future employment pursuits proved futile, with her illness being a seeming cause for concern by employers. Through the sacrifice of her older brother, Delmar, who prematurely ended his studies at university to take up the mantle of providing for the family, Ariana was able to complete St Andrew High School for Girls.
In spite of the tumultuous time faced by Ariana, she achieved a commendable academic performance in CAPE, as evidenced by her being named the top performer for her year group in Caribbean studies, and second place in Jamaica for history; coupled with school prizes for excellent performance in CAPE. Duggan was no stranger to the top of the podium, having copped the Good Performance Award for CSEC, and prior to that, she was consistently listed on the Honour Roll.
The Answer to Her Prayers
An emotional Duggan, in sharing how she has overcome some of the trials she has faced, gives all credit to her strong faith in God. She believes He answered her prayers and gave her the strength to overcome. She goes further to describe her working at JMMB as her miracle.
It was while working at JMMB Group's head office in the financial analysis and control team (FACT), during her second stint as part of the Summer Employment programme, that Ariana's prayers would be answered. Although accepted to read for a degree at the UWI, Mona, Ariana decided to defer her studies in 2015, due to the financial strain then being placed on her brother, who had a minimum wage income job and sole responsibility for the family.
Armed with faith in God to see her through her storm, Ariana decided to explore permanent employment opportunities at JMMB, which she secured a few months later as a cambio relief officer. The timing of the job was opportune, as her family received further threats of legal action, if they did not vacate their home, just a month later.
Ariana's seeming chance encounter at JMMB, in FACT, also helped to ignite a new found desire to pursue a career in forensic accounting, although she initially had her sights set on becoming a human-rights lawyer and advocate. She shares, "I never had a passion for accounting, and in fact struggled with it during high school, as a result of constant absence caused by unexplained illness. At the end of CXC, I was happy to turn my back on accounting, or at least so I thought."
While working as an intern with JMMB, she discovered the practical side of accounting was much more exciting than her introduction. It was through this exposure and change in fate that she decided to pursue a new career path. With the high levels of corruption in the Jamaican society, Ariana is enthusiastic about her role in fighting crime from behind the scenes by tracking the source of criminal financing.
Ariana's change of fate with the support of JMMB and her scholarship has allowed her to pursue her studies worry-free; while her brother has also been able to resume his studies on a part-time basis.
Contributing to the Good of Others
With the first-hand knowledge of the challenges experienced by persons living with mental illnesses, Ariana's interest has also been sparked to pursue further studies, after her first degree, in psychology in order to assist in those "forgotten" individuals in society, such as the mentally ill and incarcerated. Convinced that with the adequate support, these individuals can be transformed to uncover their greatness and positively contribute to society.
She believes that her journey is one that is ordained by God to prove Himself in her life. Proudly admitting that in spite of all the challenges that she has faced God has come through for her and is shaping her for his purpose. Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,'' epitomises Ariana's conviction.
According to Duggan, the aim of human life is character transformation. If this is true, then her experiences have really transformed her into a diamond in the rough.
In a continued effort to support nation-building and assist in transforming youth, the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation remains dedicated to educational initiatives, entrepreneurship, institutional strengthening and community development.
Her brother has been able to resume his studies at the UWI, Mona, in operations management on a part-time basis.