Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD JULETA Edwards is determined to rise above her circumstances and realise her dream, despite the steep, mountainous task that she faces.
Growing up in poverty in Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, the teen has constantly fought to be a high achiever, earning the honours as one of the top students at Denham Town High School.
Her trademark fighting spirit is what sustained her during the 2010 Tivoli incursion, which threatened to derail her chances at achieving high marks in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate.
Sitting 10 subjects at the time, she had to force herself to focus and block out the chaos. She achieved eight of those subjects with six twos and two threes, moving on to sit seven subjects in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.
The teen's outstanding achievement has earned her a place at the University of the West Indies (UWI) this September, to pursue management studies, but serious financial challenges have put her dreams in jeopardy.
"I'm very stressed and don't know what to do. I've been trying desperately to get help to be able to go to UWI, but nothing is happening. I have to find $239,018 for this year, to start my studies before branching off into the other areas. I really want to become a forensic accountant or statistician or pursue something in economics, but I don't know how that's going to happen right now," she shared with The Gleaner.
Unfortunately, hardship has been the reality for much of the young lady's life, with her parents struggling to raise eight of them in their humble two-bedroom home. Many a night they went to bed hungry, each heading out to school more often than not without lunch money.
In fact, Juleta and her sister Shanleta had to work to help take care of their younger siblings, selling garlic on the streets of downtown Kingston and working in a wholesale store each evening after leaving school and on weekends.
"Things are so rough, I don't know how I got this far. If it wasn't for people like my guidance counsellor Mrs Grindley and teachers Ms Donaldson and Ms Gayle and my principal, I don't know what I would do," stated the humble young lady.
Growing up in the community, Juleta made sure to focus on her studies and stay home as much as possible, not wanting to fall prey to the ill-fated circumstances that too often befall young women from the inner city.
"I just want to make something of myself so that I can take my family out of poverty, move them out of the inner-city to a better life. And I know the only way out is education. I just need the help, the start, someone to believe in me and help me to get there. I will do it, I will. Nothing will stop me," shared an emotional Juleta.
"All my life, there were some people who kept telling me I won't turn out to be any good, that I must just accept that me a ghetto girl and nah amount to nutten. Yes, I get depressed sometimes and cry, especially because I can't see any way out or how I'm going to make it. But I have to keep telling myself that that is not true. I will make it somehow, I will succeed, I will make something of myself. I don't know how, but God will work it out somehow."