The Ministry of Youth and Culture is providing $15 million in scholarships this year, to benefit 150 students attending three of the island’s tertiary institutions.
Valued at $100,000 each, per annum, the awards are being made under the Ministry’s Access to Higher Education Partnership Programme (AHEPP), aimed at preparing young people to become entrepreneurs. The initiative is one of several National Youth Service (NYS) programmes being financed through a $435 million allocation earmarked for the agency in the administration’s 2014/15 budget.
Fifty scholarships each will be presented to the College of Agriculture, Science, and Education (CASE), Portland; Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), Kingston; and Brown’s Town Community College, St. Ann.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Lisa Hanna formally launched the CASE segment of the programme on Wednesday, September 4, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with College Chairman, Ambassador Derrick Heaven; President, Rev. Dr. Mary Nichols; and NYS Board member, Lorenzo Ellis, who represented Chairperson, Maureen Webber.
The launch followed a pilot at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Manchester in 2013, where 50 scholarships were provided.
Minister Hanna said AHEPP is intended to prepare and enable students to create their own employment.
“We have to develop a generation of job creators…we need entrepreneurs…and we have to give you the best opportunity to do that…we have to give you access to the best support mechanism(s). So this programme, as well as the programmes that we will launch at the CMI and other institutions, are (intended) to train persons…to become the best in their (chosen) fields…so that at the end of the day, you are (better able to help) this country,” she said.
Director of Community Services at the NYS, which is administering AHEPP, Omar Newell, said in evaluating the NCU pilot programme, it was agreed that the programme’s benefits could be best maximized by targeting its provisions to programmes aligned with national growth areas such as agriculture, tourism, and the pending logistics hub initiative.
“So, we deliberately approached CASE and CMI to partner in this initiative, and they both, from day one, agreed that they would be on board,” he said.
The scholarships are being awarded to students age 17 to 24 years, who are in need of financial assistance for their tuition and other associated expenses.
This will be based on assessments of their status by special selection panels, comprising representatives from each institution, and the NYS.
The students will be required to maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher, and must complete 20 hours of volunteer service per semester at pre-approved locations agreed on by the NYS and partner institution, to retain their scholarships.
Each institution is also expected to provide the equivalent of 20 per cent tuition support to the students.
Mr. Newell advised that the application period commenced on Wednesday and will run until September 30, adding that “disbursements will be (done) before the end of October”.
He said application forms are available at CASE, and will also be online, beginning September 4.
“Our (NYS) officers (will be) here, from time to time, to collect the application forms,…(which) can be dropped off at CASE, here on campus,” he further informed, pointing out that no new applications will taken at NCU, as their 50 scholarships have already been earmarked for the recipients.
In her remarks, Dr. Nichols said AHEPP’s launch is indicative of the Ministry’s commitment to advancing tertiary education for young people, “not only in words, but in (action)”.
Interim Students Council President, Brian Townsend, in welcoming the scholarships, said the gesture is “well appreciated by the student body.”
“In these times when parents are having it hard to finance students for schooling, it is very timely, and we the students are very appreciative of this move by the National Youth Service. We will make sure to do whatever it takes to maintain the (accompanying) requirements,” he assured.