Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine:
FROM AS early as a grade-two student at Old Harbour Primary School, Mario Simms decided that he wanted to write his name in the history books, as a consummate citizen of the stigmatised Succaba Garden South East in Old Harbour, St Catherine.
It was round about the same time that the 19-year-old decided that he would make his contribution to his community and the country through the field of education
"I love math, any time that I got a chance, I would take up a math book and practise and challenge myself, and I decided from then that I want to become a math teacher," he told The Gleaner.
So he pursued the first five years of his secondary education at Old Harbour High School and gained seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects.
Though he lost his father, his role model, to cancer at the start of his sixth-form years at Central High School in Clarendon, he managed to gain five subjects, including accounts and pure mathematics in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.
"My dad, a mechanic, played a major role in my life," he reflected.
"He was always influencing me to rise above the challenges in the community and I always wanted to make him proud. It felt good to see that smile on his face when I achieved, and so I always tried to do my best. He wanted me to make a difference to the community and even though he is gone, I still have to work to do that," Mario said.
The fourth of five children, Mario was offered a place The Mico University College last September, but financial challenges delayed his sojourn.
"My mother has a shop, but since my father died, it gone down to nothing. She has to take care of my sister who is the last one and is in grade eight at Old Harbour High and doing very well, so it's very challenging right now," he said.
But the sports fanatic who represented his primary school in cricket and was the vice-captain of his community's cricket team, which participated in the Social Development Commission 2012 20/20 competition, is not daunted.
"I am raising some chickens, a goat and pig. I want to at the end of May to have at least half of the school fee, but it's very difficult to buy the feed and so on, so if I could get some assistance to raise the chickens and get some more after I sell the ones I have, I would be happy," said the optimistic youngster.
In addition to livestock farming, he said he wants a job to bolster his savings and help his sister with her education.
"I am willing to work and work hard. I have sent out several applications, but I have not been able to get a job; it's really frustrating," he bemoaned.
At the same time, he admits that while he is trying to help himself to undertake tertiary studies, he cannot realise his dreams without assistance.
"If I could get a scholarship from a company or anyone, or any kind of assistance just to pursue my dreams, I would be very grateful," he noted.
His proud mom, Rapanzel Simms, is confident that if given the opportunity, he would excel.
"Mario is a good child, never been in any bad company, never give any trouble, always does well and he is determined and wants to make a difference not only in Succaba Garden, but also in Jamaica," she told The Gleaner.