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Damion Lawrence – from illiterate to future advocate

Published:Monday | June 8, 2015 | 12:39 PM

FIRST-YEAR Law student Damion Lawrence has come a far way from the 13-year-old who had no interest in school, was illiterate, repeated classes, and saw going to school as a complete waste of time.

A lot has changed since then, thanks to his mother, Phillipia Nelson, who refused to give up on him in spite of his unwillingness to apply himself to schoolwork.

"I would never have thought I would have gained the ability to read. I showed no improvement in my schoolwork, I repeated classes when I was in the normal school system and, getting older to my teenage years, all hope was definitely lost," he told Rural Xpress.

Lawrence's mother would tell him time and time again that it's an embarrassment to see his name on a bulla and eat it!

"Thankfully, I had a mother who always wanted the best for me, even when I did not want it for myself. At the age of 12, I could not read as I was diagnosed with a learning disorder, and faced with the criticism of society. I was forced to believe that I was a slow learner and I initially accepted this," he said.

But his mother, who saw beyond his inability, enrolled him in a special-needs school - the Edge Hill School of Special Education, which caters to students who are slow learners and who are faced with other cognitive challenges.

"I was always determined to make something of my life though being enrolled in this institution and, with the assistance of my teachers, I pushed myself towards learning to read," he said.

Lawrence made a discovery while attending Ocho Rios High School Special Ed Unit - that it's never too late to make something worthwhile of your life. That was the turning point in his life, where everything changed.

"I definitely did not want to spend another year in the Special Ed Unit, because, during that time, the students from the unit were looked down on as dysfunctional. Secondly, one of my classmates was selected to enter into the normal school system and I was determined that I wanted to matriculate into the normal school system as well and not to be left behind," he said.

determined to achieve

Determined that he could achieve whatever he set his mind to, Lawrence set about proving just that. It was not an easy road, as he had to work hard to drastically bring his grades up to the acceptance level. With determination on his side and a very supportive mother, he earned his desire to be a part of the regular school programme.

His path to law was brought about through watching a TV series called The Good Wife, where he had a lot of admiration for the actress's enthusiasm about her job.

"How she executes her work, the way how she handles and deals with legal issues, and not only that, but the fact that she was there assisting others who were not aware of their rights who needed legal assistance, counselling, defending etc., and that was when I decided that's what I wanted to do, to assist people," he said.

Lawrence said he sees himself as an advocate for human rights and this is one of his passions for the field of law.

Come September, he will be going into his second year of law school, but first he has to overcome the financial hurdle and that is why he is hoping he will receive a part scholarship from the Peace And Love Academic Scholarship, an Atlanta-based non-profit organisation scholarship set up by conceptualiser Ruel 'Rula' Brown.

"By far, this is one of my hardest challenges in completing my education - the cost of financing my studies. I am from a single-parent household where it is just me and my mother trying to pull me through completion of my university education," he said.

With his mother being a vendor in the St Ann's Bay market, he said it's a stark reminder that he cannot afford to waste his time or money.