Large Abroad | Late bloomer seeks professorship in US
Kirk Dunkley struggled to keep his emotions together as he reflected on the abuse he experienced as child, in addition to being unable to read at the age of nine.
Today, Dunkley eagerly looks forward to completing his master's degree in criminal justice at Monroe College in Bronx, New York, in a bid to become a professor.
The 32-year-old, who is from Mile Gully in Manchester, said though he bloomed late in life, he is thankful for his experiences, which he said have contributed to his success today.
"My father left for the United States when I was three years old, so I was living with my mom at the time and my other brother. I wasn't going to school regularly [and] I was neglected. When I was nine years old, my aunt, [who] didn't have any kids, took me, so I was between the Cayman Islands and Spanish Town. I was home-schooled for a year because I couldn't read," he said.
"After returning to Jamaica in 1997, I was enrolled at the Villa Road Primary and Junior High School in Mandeville. I realised that in order for me to be successful or attain anything in life, I would have to work hard to achieve what I want. That was the time I realised that school was very important," he continued.
Dunkley told The Gleaner that his sister, who was in high school at the time, was a huge motivation for him, which resulted in him developing a love for reading - a habit he believed propelled him to do well in gaining a place at the secondary level.
"I did the Common Entrance and I passed for Holmwood Technical High School, [where] I did the arts. I started
looking at the requirements to matriculate for the
NCU (Northern Caribbean University) and I realised that you needed English language and four other subjects. I worked really hard in getting those subjects," he said.
BARRIERS TO OVERCOME
He, however, had several barriers to overcome in order to matriculate to university, as he was only recommended to sit two Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects.
"I realised that I loved Spanish as well. I got four CXCs (Caribbean Examinations Council) at Holmwood and did the rest at private institutions to matriculate. At fifth form, my teacher didn't recommend me for CXC English, saying I could not manage. I registered at a private institution that same year and I was successful," he said.
He was able to attend university, where he pursued a bachelor's degree in communication studies and Spanish. He, however, had to balance both work and school as he was unable to pay for his tuition.
"It was very expensive, so I did an associate (degree) in Spanish so I would be able to get a teaching job. I got a part-time teaching job with
St Michael's Institute (Mandeville). The JAMVAT (Jamaica Values and Attitudes) paid 30 per cent of my tuition. I had another job as well, and sometimes I would sell sweets to help with lunch money and fare," he recalled.
Though he admitted that it was a rough journey, he said migrating to the US in 2013 has opened new doors for him.
"It took a while for me to adjust (to the US) - the seasons and the food. It all boils down to you, as the individual, to know what you want to achieve in life. It doesn't matter your situation; once you work hard, you will achieve," he said.