Anyone who’s ever held a nine-to-five and studied part-time knows just how difficult it is to keep your head above water, let alone excel at both.
Add motherhood to the mix and you’ve created a supernormal, often sleep-deprived existence that defies logic. University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) student, Shantel James is among this elite group of Jamaican working professionals who are balancing full-time jobs and tertiary education in the pursuit of their dreams.
As a mother of two, James has mastered the art of time management and getting things done. “Frankly I have no idea how I do it. It’s mostly just me and my two boys. Even though it’s hard, I tell myself that it has to get done and so I find a way. I’m going into my final year at UCC and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t have got this far without the assistance programme at Access. It has been a godsend,” said James, referring to the education assistance programme at Access Financial Services (AFS) where she has been an employee at the Black River branch since 2013.
The 32-year-old business loan officer is among this year’s beneficiaries of the programme. James received support in the form of a tuition refund in the amount of J$80,000, which she used to purchase a laptop and tablet for her sons. She shared that some of the money will be going towards her UCC tuition for the fall semester.
In addition to the assistance for her own academic pursuits, James’ oldest son, Hayden Spence also received a grant of J$40,000 as he heads to Munroe College.
“I cannot tell you how proud I am of Hayden. He did well at PEP and based on his scores we applied to the programme and got a grant. I cannot find the words to say how grateful we are for Access. I don’t know how many companies do this kind of thing for their employees, but I can tell you for sure, that it is appreciated, especially during this back-to-school period which puts parents under so much pressure,” she asserted.
James’ son was among six students who were rewarded as top PEP performers by the company at a recent luncheon held at their Half-Way Tree Road headquarters. The programme also provided cash grants for two students at the tertiary level, one of whom will be pursuing a first degree overseas.
AFS education assistance programme
Over the last three years, AFS has invested more than J$1.2 million in its education assistance programme. The microfinance institution, which recently received a new licence from the Bank of Jamaica, employs 185 people across 17 branches island-wide.
“We see the education assistance programme as a way for us to support the development of our team members and their children. Our mandate is not just customer-focused. Yes, we have many success stories of customers who have transformed their lives through the services we provide. But we also have many success stories of our own people who are making strides and getting the right support to live up to their truest potential,” said AFS chief executive officer Frederick Williams.
Held under the theme ‘Realizing the Dream’, the awards luncheon celebrated the achievements of the recipients who openly expressed their appreciation.
“This means that we can worry less about how to cover expenses and concentrate more on doing the work. I know it’s not going to be easy. Hayden is going to high school, and I have his younger brother to consider, plus my schoolwork. But at least, we have a good start, and for that, I will always be grateful,” said James.