Young man seeks to motivate community through empowerment programme
Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer
FARM, Manchester:When a person is encouraged to do well, more often than not the line 'so I can give back' follows. Some think it as added pressure, but for 22-year-old Andre Hibbert, it's more than a responsibility, it's a privilege.
Hibbert had a difficult childhood and was the fourth of five children without a father. There were days of severe depression, but there were also days of hope for a brighter day.
"I knew there had to be something more; something more than the struggles, and I was determined to find that silver lining and help others along the way."
A brilliant mind since infant school, Hibbert knew education was the key to moving out of poverty, and so did his best to achieve much academically.
"I was told I started off slowly, but picked up gradually and became the top performer of every class. When I went to high school though, it wasn't as smooth sailing as I thought it would be: not because I couldn't do the work, but because I was late and absent so many days."
He continued: "I had to pick up lunch money from my father in the mornings, who operated a taxi. I walked 15 minutes from home to meet him and if he didn't turn up, I had to go back home. So days when he was late, I was late as well, and when he was absent, I eventually couldn't go to school. I had detention so many days, not because I was a delinquent student but because I was late. I was so used to being late that students who were late signed my name instead of theirs in the late book," Hibbert said.
Holding his mother as his tower of strength, Hibbert said though his mother could not afford some things, they were satisfied with all that was provided and tried to help in whatever ways they could.
"It really jerked me seeing my mother do all she could and crying over what she couldn't. I felt depressed, I hated it, I wanted to help but I couldn't. It somewhat pushed me to the edge. I remember once I started partners (partnership) to make a lil' money on the side. I started moving with the wrong crowd. I left the church, and things got bad. I didn't want to go back to school. I wanted to become a soldier ... ."
Upon leaving high school with five CXC subjects in grades two and three, Hibbert had a turning point.
"Somehow, I felt I had wasted my high school years and the life I started living was not me at all ... . I went back to school, switched from sciences to business and got three more subjects at grades one and two. I later enrolled in a Career Advancement Programme, funded by the Government, took part in a science symposium, and my need to have tertiary education grew."
With no money, but faith enough to move a mountain, Hibbert applied to Northern Caribbean University (NCU) and things gradually changed for the better.
"With help from my Campbell's Castle SDA Church family, Jamalco and the work programme at NCU, I was able to begin my course in Business Administration. I continually applied for student grants and God worked it out for me. After my first year, I had a GPA of 3.71 and I was the top freshman performer in my department."
In addition to being acknowledged for academic work, Hibbert has also involved himself in several student leadership positions, community associations and social outreach projects.
"I feel I am now in a position to give back and that's why in two days, I will cement my outreach initiatives by conducting a social empowerment seminar in my community. Social change through entrepreneurship is a viable option for the residents to move out of poverty, and I want to get them into that mentality. Jobs aren't readily available for, especially, those without formal education. Through such a seminar, economic life can be made better if those who already have business strengthen skills and attitudes; and those without, start one. This, I will conduct in the hall of my church for two weeks and invite persons from the field to make presentations."
An aspiring auditor, Hibbert, who also hopes to one day establish his group of companies in real estate, insurance, food and education, says anything can be done as long as work is put in and God is placed at the helm.