Overcoming the Trials to Success - The Samira Gayle Story
It is often said that ‘nothing worth having comes easy’. And no one understands that better than Samira Gayle. After a series of financial and personal hurdles, the 20-year-old is proudly embarking on her college career at The University of the West Indies (UWI) – a year later than is usual.
Gayle has been awarded a scholarship from the National Baking Company Foundation, through the UWI Endowment Fund. She will be studying for her bachelor of science in pure and applied chemistry.
But leading up to this point, almost everything went awry … yet, somehow, it has all worked out for her. And the young Christian has come to accept that “God has most certainly set her on her own unique path to success”.
After being accepted to attend UWI, Gayle and her family had a plan.
“Everyone said OK, we’re going to pool together. This one would put 50 and that one would put 50, and so on. But when it came down to the nitty-gritty, no one had any money,” she said.
So the next logical step for her was to try for a student loan. She could not quite secure that, either.
“There was a fee I had to pay during the application process. I can’t remember which fee, but things were so bad that I couldn’t even pay that,” Gayle explained.
Ironically, her inability to access a loan worked in her favour; she was spurred on by her own desperation to try harder, as well as to try other avenues. Gayle applied for scholarships and got a bevy of rejections in that quest, too.
“So I went to a computer lab, wrote up a cover letter and résumé and started dropping them off. Since the resources aren’t there for school, I decided that I’d look for work.”
This effort, too, was futile.
“I said to myself, God, what am I going to do? I have to go to school,” she said, reflecting on that trying time in her life. She recalls even feeling depressed due to her inability to get on track with how she thought her life was supposed to go.
She would later find out that, as she put it, “God had other plans for her”.
Eventually, a friend told her about the National Baking Company Foundation scholarship last year. The scholarship was open to UWI students entering their second or third year and they must be studying for a bachelor of science in food chemistry.
Gayle was none of those things.
“Even when I was applying to that scholarship, I doubted my chances. I didn’t qualify but I applied anyway and, surprisingly, I got it.”
The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory
Now the college freshman is quickly learning the ropes as she has a long way ahead of her.
Wistfully, the chemistry major said, “My actual dream is to become a doctor. So I hope to do pure and applied chemistry for a year and if I can achieve the required GPA, then I have a chance of getting into medical science.”
But until then, instead of a hope and a prayer, she’s relying on her ability to manage her time so that she can do excellently during her first year, enabling her dream to become a reality through acquiring another scholarship for her second year.
“So far it’s been hard transitioning; probably because I came in with the sixth-form mentality. Back then you had a main focus, but now you have to be focusing on three different things at once,” she lamented.
And, indeed, she must manage her time well as she contends with travelling from her home in Clarendon daily to and from school and is an active member in her church community. So when she’s not at home studying, going to church or doing her chemistry practicals, she may also be found by the University chapel attending the Students’ Christian Fellowship club UCCF, as she is adamant that it is an important part of maintaining her spiritual life. And if that weren’t enough, she hopes to join the Chemical Society to leverage professional connections where possible.
All in all, Samira is left with little to no time for a social life – at least outside of church. There simply isn’t enough time.
But, she says it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make because it is important that she can become a well-rounded and actualised member of society. This, she says, means setting realistic goals for herself where her studies are concerned and having a backup plan.
In the event that becoming a doctor is no longer an option, she is prepared to use her chemistry knowledge to pay her scholarship opportunity forward and explore the world of quality assurance or food testing – “maybe even at the National Baking Company itself,” she said.
Without prompt she added, “I just want to thank everyone at National and the UWI Endowment Fund for giving me this opportunity to get myself out there and get a start on my dream. And to anyone out there who is trying but not succeeding, it sounds cliche, but don’t ever give up.”
Gayle is prepared to work hard through all the tribulations that will come, as she’s looking forward to leading an exemplary and triumphant life in whatever field she ends up.