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Romain Samuels: newspaper vendor to architect

Published:Wednesday | November 16, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Romain Samuels at work. - photos by Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

Martin Baxter, Gleaner Writer

AT THE intersection where Barbican Road meets Widcombe Road in Kingston, is a newspaper vendor.

For the most part, she works alone, perched under an umbrella that protects her from the sun's intolerable heat. Until recently, for one day every week, a young man kept her company, selling The Gleaner newspaper along with her.

That young man is Romain Samuels. Samuels, a self-professed hustler, now wears a shirt and tie to work; he operates out of an office; he has substituted The Gleaner newspaper, his former article of trade, with a sketching pad; and his job title as a part-time newspaper salesman has been replaced with that of a full-time architect.

Raised with two siblings in the humble community of Rolands Fields in St Thomas, his mother used the confines of the church to ensure he walked the right path.

"I've been going to church ever since I was small, which instilled that Christian lifestyle or principle," he told The Gleaner.

"I come from a very poor family, and I always tried to come out of my community, because I come from a community where people fight against others; I come from a community where people don't share books; I come from a community where they try to hold you back from progress."

Despite these hindrances, much progress has been made - his journey started at high school.

After leaving Happy Grove High School in Portland with only four Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, Samuels completed a pre-engineering course at Knox Community College and took CSEC subjects in mathematics and English. It was here that Romain's technical and artistic talents were noticed by a lecturer at the college's art club - this was his tipping point.

"If you want to become something, you have to be the thing you want to become to attract things of that nature," he explained to The Gleaner, while he sat in the reception of Design Collaborative, his Kingston-based workplace.

"If I want to become an architect, I have to do things that draw me to that. So first you have to change your mentality, you have to be that person you want to become."

Understanding the concept of using education as a propulsion mechanism for social mobility, Samuels was accepted to pursue a bachelor's degree in construction management at the University of Technology. After one year, he transferred to architecture.

Hustling mentality

"I try to have this hustling mentality ever since," he explained.

"I think I learned that in the country area where you try to use your surroundings to benefit you. If l'm hungry, I can go down the bush, climb the jelly tree with my machete, chop it - that's a survival thing. That's just a principle I always believed in and I carry that with me."

Samuels sold The Gleaner on Sundays and, with a student loan used to pay his tuition, used this small profit to buy food and save money to pay his rent in order to continue his studies. After three years, Samuels graduated with his degree in architecture, and after being offered employment at Design Collaborative, gave up his job selling newspapers.

Wasting little time, an ambitious Samuels gave The Gleaner a glance into his future.

"I want to become a master designer and have my own company. I want to do a degree in construction engineering and graphics designing. I've just left school, so I need two years' experience - these are my visions," he said.