Wed | Jul 28, 2021

‘He never lived to see me graduate’ - UWI double major graduate propelled by late godfather’s dream

Published:Tuesday | November 5, 2019 | 12:07 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
The University of the West Indies graduate Shaneilia Ellis beams with pride after collecting her degree last Saturday.
The University of the West Indies graduate Shaneilia Ellis beams with pride after collecting her degree last Saturday.

After resisting her godfather’s prodding for her to pursue studies at The University of West Indies (UWI), Mona, Shaneilia Ellis last Saturday walked away with a double major under her cap. But he who pushed her to realise this life goal never lived to see the moment.

“I did not want to come to university. I was not interested. My father (godfather) used to work here and it was his dream for me to come to UWI,” she told The Gleaner at the graduation ceremony.

“My biological father died when I was three years old. His best friend, however, used to take care of me – George Cowie,” Ellis added, explaining why she refers to Cowie as her father. “He took care of me like a father; like one of his own. I was never short of anything, he bought everything for me.”

Being an athlete, Ellis had interest in other places, but Cowie was adamant that she should enrol at The UWI.

“He wanted me to come to UWI because my other brothers they did not come here, and the one he expected to go to university – who is really bright – he didn’t. But I still never wanted to come,” she said.

Ellis did apply, however, and got accepted April 22, 2014 – but she deferred her acceptance.

Fate had other plans.

“Two weeks before my father died, he said, ‘You not going to UWI before mi dead?’ I said, ‘Stop say that. Yuh nah dead and I deferred it’.

“The November 4, he died, and that’s when I decided I am actually going to come because it would have been his dream for him see me come and get a degree,” she told The Gleaner.


The banking and finance, and accounting double major graduate wore the trendy Clarks shoes to the graduation ceremony in his honour.

“People will see me always wearing Clarks and assuming things, but every year, going to school, my mommy would buy me regular shoes, but he would buy a Clarks because I walked really bad and stand bad. I never liked Clarks, I hated them – hate it. Every stone I see, I used to just kick because I wanted to mash it up,” she shared. “Weeks before he died, he gave me one … and after I started UWI, I started appreciating them.”

Ellis told The Gleaner that she had to save to finance her studies, missing out on an opportunity to save on fees while her godfather was employed there.

“I basically worked in a canteen when I had 12 CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) subjects because I could not get another job,” she revealed.

Ellis eventually found another job at an accounting firm, but was let go because she did not tell her employers she was planning to attend university shortly.

Looking back, Ellis said although the journey was rough, her immediate family was her backbone.

Some of them were present at The UWI’s Mona campus to witness her walking across the stage to collect her degree last Saturday.

Her only regret was that Cowie, whose dream it was to see her attain tertiary education, had passed before her big moment.

“He never lived to see me graduate,” Ellis lamented.