Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Total powers dreams of university students

Published:Friday | August 26, 2016 | 8:00 AM

UNIVERSITY of the West Indies political science student and Total Jamaica scholarship recipient Stephania Saunders not only lit up the room with her bright yellow dress on Tuesday, but also had the audience reliving her year as an exchange student at Bordeaux University in France.

Her parents beamed as she spoke of prior financial challenges, leaving lectures with fellow Jamaican recipient Alexis Smith, "not understanding a thing just taught", and being in doubt when told they had successfully completed their year of study. As she related her experiences, the true value of Total Jamaica's €6,000 scholarship became clear to all inside the Valencia M Room at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston.

"Receipt of the scholarship was the day our dreams made a gigantic leap," Saunders said, pointing out to the 2016 recipients - Kimone Townsend and Jevon Dixon - that, despite the challenges, she and Smith overcame because "it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and people were depending on us".

Saunders and Smith were the first University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, recipients of the scholarship launched last May covering a master's programme, including three years of living as exchange students in French territories.

The exchange programme involves students from UWI, Mona, Bordeaux University and University of the French West Indies and Guiana, and Martinique, some of whom were in attendance.

"Lessons in Martinique and France are delivered solely in French," Saunders emphasised as she addressed the gathering headed by Total Jamaica's new managing director, David Ducognon; Winnie Berry, assistant chief education officer, Ministry of Education; and Dr Omar Hawthorne, coordinator, Programme France-Caribe.

Hawthorne said the programme was grateful for Total's funding, especially its decision to increase the sum to €6,000 per student for 2016.

"We're sure Kimone and Jevon will continue the success. We look forward to them returning next year, making the UWI family proud," he said.

Meanwhile, Howard Henry, Total's network manager, described the scholarship as his company's way of "energising the minds of these future changers", playing on Total's retail mantra of 'Energising Lives Every Day'.

Berry echoed similar sentiments, saying Total's commitment to education showed the French multinational company's "loyalty to Jamaica and hope for its future," and encouraging the recipients to "continue being beacons of Total".