When her mother lost her job and ventured into small-scale farming, chicken farming and a range of domestic jobs to ensure her children finished college, Gaynelle Powell-Scarlett knew then that any success what she would have later would not only be his, but also that of his prayerful mother and father – who played his part the best way he knew how.
Despite years of hardship, a struggle to meet her academic demands, and numerous failures, Powell-Scarlett stands proud today after earning two college degrees and two administrative positions at an educational institution, accomplishments she once thought impossible to achieve.
“My mother, Charmaine Powell, has four of us, three girls and a boy. My older sister started University of Technology (UTech) a year before I started Mico University College in 2009 and it was extremely difficult for her to find tuition for both of us at the same time.While my sister was at UTech, my mom lost her job…But we strongly believe in Jesus Christ.
She added, “My mother honestly overcame 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 everything she could to make sure we were well taken care of.
But not only did the young woman struggle to cope with the challenges of limited resources, but she also faced setbacks that threatened to complete her bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a business focus.
“I struggled with two accounting courses that I repeatedly failed and kept me from finishing in four years. I left Mandeville and moved to Kingston for about seven months to take night school and recover. Luckily, I went from an E to an A in one course in 2013, while working in a call center, but again failed the other,” she explains.
It was not until the seventh year of the four-year program that she passed the last course and met and married her husband, Venice, who would take over from her mother by providing strong support.
“Giving up was not an option because my mom worked extremely hard just so I could go to college without a student loan,” she points out.
Shortly after graduating, Powell-Scarlett again encountered obstacles as her grade point average was below average and she was unable to land a teaching position.
FIRST CLASS HONORS
“My GPA was 2.59 on my graduation. Instead of seeing first class honor or second class honor, I was seeing PASS. I wasn’t proud of it, I tried to hide my reason for not not teaching or not being able to get a teaching job. I was too ashamed because I was not able to complete the program in the given time. I was there 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 temp job at another call center and later employed at her brother’s auto garage as a as secretary.
As the months passed, however, she yearned to be in class, so she applied to secondary schools again.
“It was around noon on Monday, September 3, 2018, I received a call from a high school who interviewed me. I was shocked by this because the school was already open. But I was given the opportunity to teach.
Although the opportunity only lasted a year, the educator said she believed it was God’s will, as she began to see a transformation in her life in a way that she would never have thought possible.
“I was back home in August 2019 – unemployed! I was discouraged. I didn’t want to express myself in front of anyone, so I acted like everything was fine. During my moments of depression, I managed to apply to various organizations and schools, but I was unsuccessful.
She continued, “I received an email and WhatsApp message from the Catholic College Masters of Education program coordinator in January 2020 regarding: an urgent need for an assistant. I accepted the offer.
Powell-Scarlett quickly became not only the assistant to the coordinator of the master’s degree in education at the Catholic College of Mandeville, but also a teacher of entrepreneurship for the sixth form program.
“It was during this time of uncertainty that I was offered a scholarship to pursue my Masters of Education in Teaching and Learning at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota, USA, a program that continues to be offered in Jamaica through Mandeville Catholic College… I (did) not intend to do a masters as I barely completed my bachelors program with my underqualified GPA but prayed to about it and I left that to God,” she said.
She has since successfully graduated with a perfect GPA of 4.0, and says it was the first step to overcoming her fears and the limiting beliefs she had placed in her life.
“I traveled from Jamaica to Minneapolis to participate in the Beginning (ceremony) held at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis and it was a dream come true!
“I realize now that whatever you’re trying to achieve, if it seems impossible, it’s not impossible. Keep on going! Keep trying! One day, you will have to free yourself!