“I didn’t think I would ever make it to a college abroad.”
By Hadassah Deleveaux (née Hall)
These are the words of Gerrard Russell. But come 2019, he is expected to be the first in his immediate family to graduate from college.
The 28-year-old grew up in Chippingham. Like any other young person, he was surrounded by negativity – whether in the neighbourhood or at the schools he attended. However, Gerrard starved his distractions.
“Growing up in Chippingham wasn’t so bad even though it was crowded. A little too loud sometimes and we were close to Rock Crusher, so there was always a party every weekend,” recalled the young man, who is now a student of Fanshawe College in Ontario, Canada.
“As for averting what everyone else was doing, it wasn’t intentional. I was always a nerd who had different tastes, so I had a handful of friends. A strong Christian upbringing also kept me from some pitfalls too, but I didn’t avoid them all,” he admitted.
One of Gerrard’s challenges was his outlook at one point in high school. He admitted that while a student of C. C. Sweeting Senior High School, he threw opportunities away. He began skipping classes – a far cry from the focused young man he is today.
That disinterest was exacerbated by financial struggles. He knew what it was to drive from his Chippingham residence to the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) on Old Trail Road on a near empty gas tank. He knew what it was to struggle to pay school fees or to be sponsored a suit to attend a conference. But he has long been persistent in reaching higher and soaring for better.
While at BTVI, in 2014, Gerrard’s focus landed him an Emerging Leaders in Americas Program (ELAP) study abroad exchange to Fanshawe College in Canada. That whet his appetite for more. He eventually graduated from BTVI in 2016 with an Associate’s of Applied Science degree in Information Technology Management and Security Plus.
Today, he is studying towards a Bachelor’s in Computer Systems Technology at Fanshawe. Thanks to a Lyford Cay Foundation scholarship.
“It was always an idea that I had in my mind but I didn’t graduate good enough from C.C. Sweeting Senior, so I entered the workforce. After BTVI, I had great help from faculty and friends but no funding. I was honored to receive the Lyford Cay Foundation scholarship and it’s still kind of surreal,” he said.
International Work Experience
But it gets even better. As he studies at Fanshawe, this young man from Chippingham recently landed a job as a Data Network Student at Blackberry in Canada. Considered a Data Network Analyst, his job at the software/security company is to implement change in Blackberry’s networks.
“We deal with Cisco, Juniper, F5 and a myriad of firewalls in our day to day operations. These methods of procedures can be anything from the simple adding of a user to the complexities of adding an entire enterprise to a pre-existing network. Needless to say, it’s a great job and it offers much exposure in the field,” he stated.
Advice for Young Men
Questioned as to what he would say to young men over the hill, Gerrard urges them to invest in themselves; therefore, investing in their future.
“Expose yourselves to the global market that you have been a part of since birth. If you are at the age that you can travel (unchaperoned), grab a friend, save up some money to visit Florida and go to the University of Florida. Make the next trip about your future and not just about shopping for 12 hours a day,” stated Gerrard.
“Why do we spend our vacations shopping like mad?” he said as an aside.
“It doesn’t always have to be about school. If you find someone at home, work under them as an apprentice and (build) your skill set,” he added.
For Gerrard, it’s not about where one was born, lives or the circumstances of one’s upbringing. He is adamant that once there is life, there is hope.
“Treat your name like a brand and sell it to people. Build your empire. Dream again,” he concluded.