Shari-Ann: A Mentorship Success Story

Academic and Personal Journey

Challenges and failures are necessary components of success. However, I believe that with the willpower to achieve, when those rocky roads arrive, one is in the position to overcome those obstacles cleverly.

My name is Shari-Ann Henry and I was born as a premature child on the 4th of March in Kingston Jamaica to Ann Allen (self-employed) and Karl Henry (correctional officer) and raised in the poverty-stricken inner city community of Torrington Park. This area is known as a violent one in which many persons are engaged in gang violence and various other criminal activities. The environment was in no way conducive to peaceful study because of the ear-piercing gunshots that would ring out at unpredictable times and internal violence amongst community members. This is the area which majority of my relatives continue to call home, due to the lack of resources to relocate. With a hard-working mother and an inconsistent father during high school, there were countless days in which I had no money at all but I would walk to school and endure the day without eating anything.

Moreover, during my high school years the first time I received $200 for lunch money was lower sixth form. However, prior lower sixth the little I got for school was a motivational tool to achieve greatness in all ambits of my academic and personal life. The ‘crabs in a barrel’ situation remained real while growing up in the ghetto but I did not allow it to prevent me on my road to self-development.  

I have managed to overcome the many obstacles while living there by developing a certain mindset which allowed me to look on the sunny side of life. I was determined to defy the stereotype that nothing good can come of my community; therefore I take every step available to me in order to rise above poverty and my social and economic plight. Ultimately, I am tempered by the realities of ghetto life story because they have allowed me to embrace three principles of life: knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

While at the Convent of Mercy I was awarded with a certificate highlighting outstanding performance in the Octagon Club of Alpha Academy. I was also awarded with the prize of outstanding Social Studies student in form 1.

The year 2008 marked my achievement in all nine (9) CSEC subjects for which I received distinctions, credits and pass and was awarded with the prize of outstanding CXC performance in the constituency of South St. Andrew. This came as a pleasant surprise to many due to the desperate circumstances which plagued me throughout my high school years at the Convent of Mercy Academy “Alpha”. In the same year, I was attached to the prestigious Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) Jamaica where is given the opportunity to anneal my self-confidence and realize my true potential. In 2009 I achieved credits and pass in 7 units of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.

Due to my achievements despite my circumstances, I was awarded a number of locally recognized grants and scholarships, namely: the Burger King Scholarship, the Citizens Security and Justice Program Scholarship, the Caribbean Integration Program Bursary, book grants from Scotia Bank Jamaica Limited and book and meal Grants from the Office of Student Financing at UWI Mona. The awards that I received greatly assisted me in completing my degree (with honors) in Social Policy and Development with a minor in Demography at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

In 2011 I made a presentation to the guest speaker- Carol Graham at the WLI luncheon at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. In the second semester of 2012 I was accepted at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus to participate in the exchange program based on grade point average over the 3.0 mark. In that same year, I also represented my country at the United Nations General ATT conference on control arms at the New York chapter and volunteered as a research assistant of the Darkness to Light Program (aimed at preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Jamaica).

I displayed good leadership skills and I was chosen to lead most (formal) groups and group leader for courses I did at the undergraduate level  such as ‘Garveyism in the Americas and Africa’, ‘Introduction to Political Institutions’ and ‘Qualitative Research’.  In all this, I have always had a vested interest in helping people, especially children, who were less fortunate, even though I was in a similar position.

At UWI Mona, I was also a part of a mentorship program (UWI LEADS) aimed at assisting 1st years students on the road to the UWI experience in academics as well as self-development. In 2012, while at UWI St. Augustine I participated in community service activities in collaboration with Milner Hall to provide academic as well as mental assistance to the Rafa’s Boys home in St. Augustine Trinidad and Tobago. In December 2012, in collaboration with the Peer Counseling Association, we had a Christmas get together at the boys’ home.

In January 2014, I was awarded a certificate of recognition to participate in the “Youth Upliftment through Employment” (YUTE- a mentoring program targeting inner-city individuals of Jamaica to enhance their skills and talents and achieve self –development. I was also a member of the Torrington Park Action Youth Club and the Kingston and St. Andrew Action Forum where I was very active in the homework center and the advocacy committee. Independently, in September of 2013 to March of 2014, I was engaged in preparing students in my community for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) for their performance will dictate which high school they are placed; three from five students were placed in traditional high schools.

UWI is seen as my place to shine. It is deemed as the place for students who believe in and are willing to promote and achieve regional cooperation and development. I am such a student. While pursuing a MSC in Development Statistics (specializing in social and demographic statistics) at the UWI St. Augustine Campus, I was able to remain on the road to success. For the 2015 Intercampus Postgraduate debate I was awarded with the prize of best speaker. In the same year I was also awarded with the prize of Milner Hall postgraduate student of the year and served as the Entertainment Representative for the Postgraduate Association. At the end of the Master’s Degree I was granted the opportunity to be a speaker at the Caribbean Urban Forum 2015.

I am a firm believer in self-development and in the development of my region. My dream is to live my dream of working for the United Nations (as a demographer/ social policy analyst) and ultimately to become a politician in the area of social development and public planning. Under the endorsement of my professor at UWI St. Augustine, I’m currently employed as a research assistant at the Office of the Deputy Principal in the

, projects and programmes.


As the late David O. McKay said, "True education does not consist merely in the acquiring of a few facts of science, history, literature, or art, but in the development of character." For me mentorship was a form of developmental tour, moving from the point of little or no self-confidence to one where determination and perseverance is paramount. Here, I was exposed to a mentorship committee which pinpointed my academic strengths and weaknesses and gave necessary feedbacks and suggestions. Moreover, having advisors/mentors who highlighted career options, encouraged high self-esteem, and provided assistance with academic finances have allowed me to complete two degrees and have positioned me to realize my true potentials and made critical strides in my interpersonal relationship skills. Additionally, the fact that my academic achievements at the secondary level have accorded me this great opportunity, I am delighted to know that meritocracy is still alive in contemporary Jamaica and is elated at the great works the Women's Leadership Initiative is doing for the youths of Jamaica. In all this, my experience with mentorship was inspiring and astounding and I would not hesitate to assist youths in various aspects of their academic life.