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Eight students of Jamaican heritage, who are attending colleges and universities in the United States of America (USA), have been awarded the 2012 Professor Gordon Shirley Book Scholarship.

They are Nirica Clarke, Kimberley Curtis and Shanique Fletcher of Howard University; Tressan Gordon of Virginia State University; Camille Clennon Hilmy of Prince George's Community College; Raquel Lowe of Mary Baldwin College; Lloyd Thompson Taylor of Hood College; and Sharon Vernon of Strayer University.

The scholarship, an initiative of the Washington D.C-based Jamaica Nationals Association (JNA), was presented at the organisation's annual student reception and book scholarship awards ceremony held on Saturday (Oct. 6) at the Silver Spring Civic Center.

Ambassador to Washington, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, who delivered the keynote address, commended JNA for creating the scholarship, noting that "it is an outstanding tribute to Professor Shirley's advocacy, commitment, contribution to the Diaspora and support for students of Jamaican heritage in their quest to further their education".

He also congratulated the students and urged that as they acquire higher education, not to forget the important values and principles.

"Education will not make you a more moral person; education will not tell you how to be a person of integrity; it will not make you kind, neither will it make you sensitive to the needs and interests of others," he noted.

"As you acquire more education, you must remember that education did not instill in you those values. You acquire those values from home, from church, from your family, friends and peers. As educated persons, you must ensure that you keep these values and that you pass them on to those that are around you," he stated.

JNA Education Committee Chairman, Dr. Agorom Dike, in his remarks, explained that the awards are based on high academic excellence, outstanding community service and financial need.

He said the organisation is aware of the challenges faced by Jamaican students related to the F1 visa and so decided to increase the scholarship awards from four to eight this year.

The visa, he said, does not allow students to access federal grants and student loans or obtain work permits. 

Dr. Dike informed that through its student outreach programne, the JNA also works with the Embassy of Jamaica to facilitate opportunities for fellowships and mentoring relationships between "our university and college students and our Jamaican professional and diplomatic community within the Washington metropolitan area".

Professor Gordon Shirley, who served as Ambassador to Washington from 2004 to 2007, is currently Principal of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona campus.

The scholarship is awarded to students studying in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.