Sun | May 26, 2019

Dr Curtis Sweeney Breaks Bar of Excellence - Part II

Published:Saturday | September 23, 2017 | 12:06 AMTamara Bailey
Dr Curtis Sweeney

"There is a quote by Robert Kennedy that says, 'Some people look at what is and ask why and there are others that look at what could be and ask why not.' I started to look at the things that could be, especially after meeting with persons from the Jamaica Society for the Blind who were blind, but gainfully employed and some had gone on to university and were doing very well."

This is what fuelled Dr Curtis Sweeney's drive to become more than what life had thrown at him, but instead, greatness personified.

Still adjusting to his vision loss, Dr Sweeney pursued his passion and started the undergraduate programme in psychology at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Depending on people to read material for him, recording notes and finding ways to adjust to the academic setting was a challenge for him, but he knew he had to press on.

"I had to work three times harder than the average student to get the same work done...but all that I was facing gave me the impetus to start a disability movement on campus," Dr Sweeney told Family and Religion.

He was instrumental in having several facilities put in place for those with disabilities. Dr Sweeney later helped to form an association for students with special needs and a support group that was certified by the university for persons with special needs.

His works were rewarded with the UWI premiere award.

"I later moved on to doing my masters in counselling psychology at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology. I had improved resources, I had what you call a type and speak machine and so I was able to type my papers, print and become more efficient. However, I still had a problem reading," Dr Sweeney said.

He continued: "I remember I had a book review to do and the book was 800-plus pages and I had to complete it in two weeks. I had so many people reading that book and it didn't get read off, but God was Good and I was able to complete the review," he said.

Though he had a full-time job at GraceKennedy and time was a commodity he sometimes could not afford, after two years, Dr Sweeney completed the two-year programme with a 3.5 GPA.

"The HR persons at the company (GraceKennedy) were extremely supportive and what they allowed me to do was meet with some of the at-risk youth in the communities they worked with," said Dr Sweeney.

He added: "For about a year, I was just meeting with them and counselling them and while there, I developed a counselling programme that became very effective and between the HR and my director, they realised it was important to have a counselling psychologist on staff."

After making a presentation to the chairman of the company's foundation, Dr Sweeney became the counselling psychologist.


God is amazing


"It goes to show you how amazing God is. I had a vision and I knew this was where I wanted to go, but I couldn't have seen it, I didn't know how it would materialise. Additionally, about a year after, GraceKennedy started an in house wellness programme for staff members and I became the counselling psychologist," he shared.

With a yearning to be at the top of his profession, Dr Sweeney soon enrolled in the doctoral programme at the Northern Caribbean University.

"It was an intense programme, even though classes were on the weekend, during the week there were so many papers that needed to be done. My greatest challenge though was internship and we had to do a one-year internship and of course with full-time job, it took me more than a year to complete," Dr Sweeney noted.

Relying on a strength that could come only from God, Dr Sweeney completed the programme amid the challenges with a 3.85 GPA and an A for his dissertation.

Adding to that, he was the valedictorian at his commencement service.

"I just want to continue impacting lives and inspiring others to believe they can achieve despite their circumstances. I want people to believe it is possible and I want people to know that we need to be mindful of our thoughts because our thoughts sometimes limit us. I want people to be solution-oriented, stop worrying about the problem and find solutions."