CMU Final-Year Student to Set up Mentoring Programme at Alma Mater

Photo: Michael Sloley Final-year student at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), Shannon McCalla (centre), having an animated discussion with former Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Niu Qingboa (left), and President of the university, Professor Fritz Pinnock, at a recent scholarship awards ceremony held at the CMU Palisadoes campus in Kingston. Miss McCalla and four other students at the university were presented with scholarships by the Government of China valued at over $1 million.

Story Highlights

  • Final-year student at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), 21-year-old Shannon McCalla, has plans to set up a mentoring programme at Edwin Allen High School in Clarendon.
  • A past student of the school, Miss McCalla, tells JIS News that it is necessary to mentor high-school students for university life.
  • Miss McCalla believes that a need exists for students coming from rural Jamaica to have some form of preparatory grounding for the urban experience, and to strengthen their mental power for the university phase of their lives.

Final-year student at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), 21-year-old Shannon McCalla, has plans to set up a mentoring programme at Edwin Allen High School in Clarendon.

A past student of the school, Miss McCalla, tells JIS News that it is necessary to mentor high-school students for university life.

She hails from the community of Peckham in the hills of Clarendon, and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in customs processes, freight forwarding and immigration.

Miss McCalla believes that a need exists for students coming from rural Jamaica to have some form of preparatory grounding for the urban experience, and to strengthen their mental power for the university phase of their lives.

“Going to university or college is not all about being financially ready; it is about being mentally prepared. If you are not mentally prepared, you might get lost in the system,” she tells JIS News.

She says for her first two semesters at the CMU, she almost buckled under the many frustrations that “face a young girl from the country, coming to live by herself in the capital city”.

Miss McCalla recalls seeing students from rural areas not being able to adapt to their new environment, adding that the change can affect confidence, leading to demotivation.

She says that many potential university students are from households where parents are not aware of educational and career paths, and without being fully prepared, they end up being discouraged. “It can be very challenging, and I want to give a hand of support to them,” she adds.

“My grandmother, I call her a fighter, and she is the one I emulate for her strength. She wanted the best for me, and that is what motivated me,” she says, noting that while her mother, who migrated to the United Kingdom (UK) at the age of 19, did her best “for me”, her bond is with her grandmother.

Miss McCalla tells JIS News that although her grandmother was not a reader, “she encouraged me to take up my books”.

She credits Edwin Allen High for giving her a “great experience” and allowing her to learn a lot, and laying a foundation for her future.

After high school, Miss McCalla enrolled at the Clarendon-based Knox Community College to pursue an associate degree in environmental science, but after one year, and encouraged by a close relative, she went to the CMU.

Doing the CMU customs and immigration programmes has helped her to undertake “something different”, she says, describing them as preparing persons on the importance of border protection, and securing the country from “illicit goods, and illegal people”.

“After research, I decided that this is what I want to do to serve my country,” she says.

Miss McCalla, who uses her free time to volunteer at schools and on the Circle K International Club outreach projects, is a strong believer in setting clear objectives.

She says that youth should have positive role models from whom to draw inspiration and direction.

The student also takes courage from Head of the CMU, Professor Fritz Pinnock. “He has shown that perseverance is the key,” she notes, pointing out that the Professor’s enthusiasm for his vision of the development of the university did not wane, but he kept working at it until it has become a beacon for young people across the region.

Former Pastor of the Peckham New Testament Church of God, Reverend Samantha Nicholson-Brown, describes Miss McCalla as one of the “best examples” in the community, who is putting herself in a position to help others. “She is a good role model, and I always use her as an example to inspire others,” she tells JIS News.

For science teacher at Edwin Allen High, Richard Barnett, Miss McCalla at age 15 displayed the maturity of an adult, always focused on reaching educational goals.

“She is somebody who knows what she wants, and is goal-driven. When she sets her mind to something, she pursues it very hard. Throughout her high-school years, she was always in top-rated grades,” he tells JIS News, noting that she also balanced her classroom work and extracurricular activities.

Meanwhile, Professor Pinnock says the humility exemplified by Miss McCalla is the type that employers are looking for, and that her grade point average (GPA) is “excellent”.

“She is rounded and is always there for her colleagues. She has an excellent career ahead of her. Other students need to look at her maturity and humility,” he encourages.

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