Journey to the Bar - CB/UWI scholarship awardee has a clearer path to becoming an attorney
Karee Finegan, a 32-year-old detective sergeant in the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) of the St Ann Division, is among the CB/UWI scholarship awardees for 2018. This is a critical step for the first-year law student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Western Jamaica campus, in her journey to the Bar.
Finegan's journey was not without its issues, which propelled her into this degree. She is from a small, rural community in the hills of St Ann called Hyde Park, where Finegan described her life as being a comfortable one.
"I had a wonderful childhood growing up, even though my family was poor. I grew up in a Christian home, and, as a result, my social life surrounded participating in church events," Finegan shared. Her childhood, however, had its share of financial struggles, "My mother, Phyllis, was a housewife, and my father, Douglas, was a carpenter/farmer, so there were challenges," she said. Finegan explained that despite her parents' best efforts, in order to provide books and school supplies for her and her three sisters, her father had to sell at least one cow each year.
Finegan and her siblings maintained a level of dignity, however: "I did not receive a lot of lunch money, but nobody knew. It was from the meagre sum I saved and purchased other things I needed, such as school shoes or to attend events such as weekend camp. With the scrimping and saving, however, I was never absent from school because of lack of money," Finegan explained.
She was a student at St Hilda's Diocesan High School in Brown's Town, St Ann, where she maintained an average academic performance while excelling in subjects that she loved, such as food and nutrition and social studies. Finegan explained that it was not until after high school that she started to do better in her studies. While attending 'The School on the Hill', she achieved a silver medal in a Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competition. But through it all, Finegan had dreams of becoming a lawyer. However, the financial burden was too great for her parents, and this led her to join the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in 2006.
The 12 years that proceeded were fruitful for the self-described hard worker as she gained a promotion to the rank of corporal in 2013 after receiving the highest mark of 85 per cent on the promotion exam in her division. Further, in May of that year, she reached the rank of sergeant as part of an accelerated programme within the JCF.
Finegan's dream persisted, and she applied to both The UWI and the University of Technology. "I was accepted to both schools, but I chose UWI because I have always wanted to be a UWI graduate. Also because after completing my LLB, I will matriculate to the Norman Manley Law School," she explained.
There was still the issue of funding her dream, and a friend encouraged her to apply for scholarships. Finegan received a call that she was one of the CB/UWI scholarship awardees for 2018. "I was elated, extremely happy. I have never received any awards like this before. I feel honoured to know that someone believed in me enough to give me money to study. It's a great feeling," she said.
Finegan expresses how grateful she is for the scholarship as without it, she would need to find other means of financing her tenure at the university through loans. She also thanked her family, which is her support system.
Finegan is next in line to be a UWI graduate, as her youngest sister is a radiographer who graduated from the same institution. With her path now clear, Finegan tells other youths that a life of crime is not the only way out of poverty. She challenges them to get educated or find a skill, and encourages them to be their own motivation as this will lead to their success.