Sun | Aug 14, 2022

Gaynelle Powell-Scarlett breaks free from failures

– Young teacher perseveres with prayer

Published:Monday | July 4, 2022 | 11:58 AMTamara Bailey - Gleaner Writer
Gaynelle and her mother, Charmaine Scarlett.
Gaynelle and her mother, Charmaine Powell.

Mandeville, Manchester:

When her mother lost her job and ventured into small farming, chicken rearing and a range of domestic jobs to ensure that her children completed college, Gaynelle Powell-Scarlett knew then that any success she would later have would not be just her own, but also that of her praying mother and her father – who played his role the best way he knew how.

Despite years of distress, a struggle to meet her academic requirements and numerous failures, Powell-Scarlett proudly stands today having earned two academic degrees and two administrative posts in an educational institution, accomplishments that she once thought were impossible to attain.

“My mother, Charmaine Powell, has four of us, three girls and one boy. My older sister started the University of Technology (UTech) a year before I started The Mico University College in 2009 and it was extremely difficult for her to find the tuition for both of us at the same time. While my sister was at UTech, my mom lost her job … But we are strong believers in Jesus Christ.”

She added, “My mother honestly got by all the challenges through fasting and prayer. She also believed and still believes that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and she did all that she could to make sure we were well taken care of.”

But not only was it difficult for the young woman to deal with the challenges of limited resources, she also had to deal with failures that threatened her completion of the bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis on business.

“I had challenges with two accounting courses that I failed numerous times, and that prevented me from completing in four years. I left Mandeville and moved to Kingston for about seven months to attend evening classes to resit. Thankfully, I moved from getting an E to getting an A in one course in 2013, while working at a call centre, but I again failed the other,” she outlines.

It was not until the seventh year in the four-year programme that she passed the final course and met and married her husband, Venice, who would take over from her mother in providing strong support.

“Giving up was not an option because my mother worked extremely hard just so I could attend college without a student loan,” she points out.

Soon after collecting her degree, Powell-Scarlett again met with obstacles as her grade point average was below par and she was unable to land a teaching job.


“My GPA was 2.59 on my degree. Instead of seeing a first class honours or a second class honours, I was seeing PASS. I was not proud of it, I tried to hide my reason for not teaching or not being able to get a teaching job. I was too ashamed because I was not able to complete the programme within the set time. Here I was with a degree that I was not proud of years later,” she said.

From one rejection to the next and one failed interview to the next, Powell-Scarlett soon found herself in a temporary job at another call centre and later employed at her brother’s car mart as a secretary.

As the months progressed, however, she yearned to be in the classroom, so she again applied to high schools.

“It was around lunchtime on Monday, September 3, 2018, I received a call from a high school I was interviewed by. I was shocked by this as school was already opened. But I was given the opportunity to teach.”

Though the opportunity was only for a year, the educator said she believes it was God’s will, as she began seeing a transformation in her life in ways she never thought possible.

“I was home again in August 2019 – unemployed! I was downhearted. I did not want to express myself to anyone, so I pretended as though everything was fine. During my depressed moments I managed to apply to various organisations and schools but I was not successful.”

She continued, “I received an email and a WhatsApp message from the coordinator of the master of education programme at Catholic College in January 2020 re: an urgent need for an assistant. I accepted the offer.”

Powell-Scarlett soon became not only the assistant to the master of education coordinator at The Catholic College of Mandeville, but also an entrepreneurship teacher for the sixth form programme.

“It was during this time of uncertainty that I was offered a scholarship to pursue my master of education degree in Teaching and Learning at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, USA, a programme offered in Jamaica through Catholic College of Mandeville … I (had) had no intention of doing a master’s degree as I barely made it through my bachelor’s programme with my underqualifying GPA, but I prayed about it and left it to God,” she said.

She has since successfully graduated from the programme with a perfect GPA of 4.0, and says this was the first step in overcoming her fears and the limiting beliefs she had placed over her life.

“I travelled from Jamaica to Minneapolis to participate in the commencement (ceremony) that was held at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis and it was a dream come true!

“I now realise that whatever you are trying to achieve, if it’s appearing to be impossible, it’s not impossible. Keep going! Keep trying! One day you must break free!”