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Stellar Grads | Grandison pushing past pain

Published:Wednesday | October 30, 2019 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
St Patrick Grandison

It might not be such a stretch to say St Patrick Grandison was destined to teach. Realising his calling, he began to wet his feet in the profession at 16 as a volunteer teaching mathematics and music at Port Maria Primary School in St Mary.

He was later trained as a mathematics teacher at Moneague Teachers’ College and headed back to the classroom at Port Maria Primary.

This year, he is graduating from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, having successfully completed an undergraduate linguistics degree.

While it was a mainly smooth sailing for Grandison during his first two years at The UWI, every now and again, he would become fatigued or have to battle allergic reactions.

Although he had saved up for his studies, the unexpected medical expenses had drained his funds by the start of his third and final year.

Having not had any word on a scholarship application up to the start of the academic year, Grandison wrote to the university, requesting to have the year off and went back to work at Port Maria Primary.

By the end of September, he would get a call from The UWI inviting him to an interview for the principal’s scholarship.

“When it was time for me to be awarded the principal’s scholarship, the letter came through that I had dropped the course for the year and so they withdrew the scholarship. Someone on the committee ... went above and beyond and got me the CB (Caribbean Broilers) scholarship instead, and that actually paid my tuition for the year,” Grandison told The Gleaner.

His godmother and church family would rally around him to cover his boarding fees for the year.

Grandison had already missed the first few weeks of school, but he packed his bags and headed back to UWI.

“That was when I began to feel off,” he said in a low tone.

The 28-year-old began feeling extremely fatigued in November 2018, but he blamed it on the sudden changes that had occurred.

Medical checks revealed that his white blood cell count was below normal and depleting fast.

He was stunned.

By February 2019, Grandison was diagnosed with a serious undisclosed illness.

“There were physical changes. I was losing hair and I was losing weight. It was really hard mentally. That was the hardest part because at that point, I was ... using all my finances. I ended up using all my savings to do surgeries and treatment,” he said.

“It’s always best to speak to someone. Create a circle of people in which you can confide in, and for me, I got that when I started counselling,” he said. “I kept thinking about my ailment, things I could’ve done or should have done, even though there was nothing that I could have really done to prevent it,” he explained.

“I went into final exams and I zoned out for more than half of the exam time. There was so little that I could do mentally, but I gave the paper my best. Amidst all the struggles and the fact that I didn’t finish my exams, my final semester was actually the best academic semester I ever had,” he said.

He managed to get a 4.1 GPA, just a shade below perfect, and said that it was his greatest milestone – one he still marvels at.

His main source of encouragement is his mother, as he was determined to achieve a goal she had to abandon almost three decades ago. She got pregnant with him while studying nursing and her family could not afford to have her continue studies and properly prepare for the child.

Grandison is now pursuing an MPhil in linguistics and is a mathematics teacher at Shortwood Practising, where he assists with the numeracy committee and heads the chess club.

“Even if I were to die early, which is a possibility, I would at least like to have a legacy that said I started the wheel of turning for a link into something that is native to Jamaica – the language – and an area people struggle with – mathematics.”