Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Youth activist determined to become lawyer

Published:Tuesday | October 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jerome Reynolds, Staff Reporter

DRIVEN BY a passion to help people, especially young persons on the edges of society, Omar Ryan wants to see a Jamaica where all citizens are treated equally and have access to justice.

For Ryan, obtaining a law degree would take his years of activism to the next level of transforming the society.

The 2007 Governor General Award recipient for outstanding volunteerism began the journey of realising his dream in 2011 when he enrolled at the Faculty of Law at The University of the West Indies, Mona. Not being one of the lucky few to receive a government subsidy, Ryan had to find the US$10,000 tuition. He was happy when he completed year one of the three-year programme. But, sadness took over as his meagre funds would run dry.

A lack of financing forced him to take a leave of absence from the law programme. Two years have now passed and the Morant Bay High School past student is still out in the cold.

Describing himself as a natural fighter, Ryan says he is still determined to see his dream come true and is looking to the generous spirit of Jamaicans to come to his aid.

"My mother has done her best, but from the age of 18, I have been on my own. I work part-time at a law firm to pay my bills, support my family and my community work, but it is just not enough," said Ryan.

Ryan says he has been knocking on several doors for help, but lady luck has not been on his side. He says he has sought the help of the Students' Loan Bureau, but he could not find a qualified guarantor.

"I wrote to several companies, people in society and even to the Office of Prime Minister, but got no response. It is really rough, and the programme is getting more expensive, and I don't know when this cycle will end."

Continuing, he says: "I am not looking to be a burden to anyone, I just want the opportunity to become a lawyer and contribute back to society. I am willing to give free labour for any amount of years to pay back the investment any company or individual makes towards my future."

"I have nowhere else to turn, and I need help. Not just for me, but for all the young people in marginalised communities that are looking up to me. I have become the hope they see that they, too, can make it despite their backgrounds," said the St Thomas native.

Helping young men

Ryan, who grew up without his father, says it is a part of his life's mission to help break the cycle of hurt boys go through from feelings of abandonment. He says he uses education and teaching life skills to help youths to become productive citizens.

Ryan says, over the years, he has been involved in several social intervention programmes at the university and in nearby communities.

One initiative that stands out the most for the son of a domestic helper and fruit vendor was a year-long programme at Papine High School called Save the Male.

"It is a good feeling when I see the young people from August Town, Mona Commons and Papine take up opportunities to better their lives and become agents of change in their communities," says Ryan. "So me becoming a lawyer is bigger than myself; it's about helping the future generations."

"I always stick by my young people, so much so that they jokingly call me their lawyer. I recall one time a young man was arrested by the police, and I wrote a strong letter to the police station. My letter helped to get him out and, to this day, he has not had any problems with police."

Omar Ryan can be contacted at 451-8443 and 507-2010 and omaryan@live.com