GG Award recipient fights way out of poverty
Shamona Smith of Palmers Cross, Clarendon, was among 42 people conferred with the Governor General's Award for Leadership and Achievement in February.
The award focuses on youth, education and nominees' impact in their communities.
"Receiving this award, I am overtaken by a great sense of gratitude to God for the journey and pride in myself for the determination and tenacity that has allowed me to get to this point," Smith told THE WEEKEND STAR.
Smith, a graduate of the Norman Manley Law School and a judicial clerk at the Supreme Court, said that her success was no easy feat, citing financial woes.
"In grade four it occurred to me that I was poor. I saw that things were not always how they should have been, but it did not hit me that I was poor. I then thought to myself, 'What are you going to do with this poverty? Are you going to let it define you'?" she shared. "I purposed in my heart that I would rise out of poverty through education as I loved learning. I promised my 10-year-old self that I would never be mediocre, as I needed to come out of the struggles."
The little her single mother worked as a honey vendor was not enough to fend for her five children. This became another motivation for Smith.
"I remember one Saturday when my mom went to town to sell honey, I felt so bad seeing her come home tired, having not sold anything," she recalled. The Glenmuir High School alumna said her high school journey was faith-trying.
"There were days I didn't have lunch, but through God's help I persevered. I remember being in an exam and hadn't eaten anything that day. I held my head down and cried. Persons thought it was because of the exam, little did they know it was hunger," said Smith.
After completing sixth form, Smith applied to university, but trepidation lingered as she was unsure of how her tuition would be paid. Her zeal to excel led her to seek employment at a call centre on campus.
Amid the workload, Smith said she was grateful for the opportunity to fend for herself. "Thankfully the call centre was right beside my faculty, so I could run from work to class," she said.
She shared that she saved enough money to venture onto the students' work and travel programme, enabling her to finance her way through university.
"By being very strategic, I was able to repay my student loan I took in first year, pay my law school tuition, and all my living expenses," she said.
"This award, coupled with where I am, has hit home differently. It's like I can truly celebrate the journey. I have come a very long way from where I started and I do have a long way to go."