Kieria afforded a chance at higher education

C.V. Bethel student awarded $30,000 Golden Gates Female Empowerment Educational Scholarship

Change is one of those constants that exists from the day a person is born until the day they die. Change is an inescapable part of life, even though it can sometimes be scary and difficult. For Kieria Woodside, transitioning from junior school to high school, came the realization that if she did not get serious about her life, no one would give her something that she did not work for.

“It was either get my act together or I would have a very rough life,” said Kieria, 16, a senior at C.V. Bethel Secondary High School. Leaping into the change she needed to make has paid off, as Kieria has been rewarded with the possibility of attending college, after being awarded the $30,000 Golden Gates Female Empowerment Educational Scholarship.

Kieria, the youngest of five siblings, will be the second member of her immediate family to attend college. Her oldest sister Kadesha Bridgewater is in her final year of nursing studies at University of The Bahamas.

Pursuing higher education, said Kieria, would be a dream come true for her, and a way to honor her deceased mother, Natasha Ellis, who passed away four years ago.

She said her mom’s wish for her was to be successful, attend college, and to become the first billionaire in their family.

“I feel as though that week, she knew she was dying and that she was about to leave me. She said, ‘Kie, I want you to become successful and take your family out of this place.’”

That made her push beyond her limit to honor her mom and to make herself proud, as well.

Kieria was also able to hold her sister up as an example, who was 18 years old at the time of their mom’s passing.

“I saw my sister while she was in college, having to take care of me and my niece [brother’s child] and she was working three to five jobs just to keep a roof over our heads. When my mom passed, [my sister] stepped up. Seeing that also reminded me so much of my mother, who was a young mother as well, and also worked numerous jobs to take care of us. I appreciated all my sister did for me because she didn’t have to. She could have taken us to a home.”

The first person Kieria called after Golden Gates Member of Parliament Pia Glover-Rolle contacted her to let her know that she was the recipient of the scholarship, was her sister.

“After Mrs. Rolle called me, I called my sister – she literally broke down crying. She didn’t say anything to me until she came home that night. She said, ‘Kie, I’m proud of you, and our mom is rolling over 10 times in her grave [in happiness].’”

Kieria learned about the scholarship through the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), a skills development and training after-school program for ninth through 12th-grade students to inspire them to compete on the world stage. The program empowers young people by exposing them to the intricacies and complexities of real-life situations. Participants are exposed to business skills, college preparatory skills, life skills, entrepreneurship skills, job readiness skills, fine arts and drama, health and fitness programs, business case studies, peer mentorship, adult mentorship, volunteerism, conflict resolution skills, financial literacy skills, spiritual awareness, community service projects and environmental awareness. It’s a 30-week program that runs parallel to the high school calendar.

“It was a day at YEP – my mentor, Mr. Clarke, asked who lived in the Golden Gates Constituency, and he told me to apply for the scholarship.”

To be eligible, applicants had to be a female resident of the Golden Gates community, have a 3.30 or higher cumulative grade point average (GPA), a letter of recommendation from a teacher or community member, active in the community, applied to attend a college/university, overcome some sort of hardship and have a personal statement.

“I didn’t meet all the requirements, so I was a little afraid I wasn’t going to get it,” said Kieria. She was most concerned about not having had a proper GPA from the last academic year.

“My grades weren’t all on my report card, and when I got it back, it wasn’t tallied up. They’re saying I still have to wait to get it tallied which is frustrating in a way.”

The last official complete GPA she has, she said, was a 2.90 from her 10th-grade year.

“I knew that I got the scholarship when I came to school. Mrs. Glover-Rolle’s secretary gave me a call, interviewed me, and then I got a call from Mrs. Glover-Rolle who said I got the scholarship and asked if I could attend the gala to receive it.”

Kieria was presented with the $30,000 scholarship at the Ruby Ann Cooper-Darling Gala.

The scholarship was made possible through the Star Apple Scholarship Fund. Star Apple is commemorating the heroes and leaders who have forged the rights that women enjoy today in The Bahamas by naming scholarships after the incredible individuals. Star Apple’s inaugural scholarship, The Ruby Scholarship, is named after Ruby Ann Darling, the first woman to cast a vote in a general election in 1962. The Ruby Scholarship is a $10,000 scholarship which is awarded to a deserving student and is applied against tuition at a post-secondary institution. The Ruby Scholarship rewards candidates who exemplify the Ruby principles of putting God first and performing service in the family and community at large.

The teen has yet to apply to college, but said that with the funds to begin the process, she is looking forward to studying culinary arts. Her favorite subject she said is food and nutrition.

“I love food. I love being around food and trying things I never would have thought to try; it’s exciting.”

Her guidance counselor, Arnold Martin, is helping her complete applications to colleges.

Without the scholarship, said Kieria, she has been looking at working for a year or two to save money toward funding higher education for herself as she believes education is the key to success.

“There are many people who drop out of school at a young age and are successful, but when you have teachers and guardians pushing you to be successful in life, it gives you a drive to keep going.” And she said she has had her sister and her teachers constantly pushing her.

“When my mother first died, I made a 3.00 but I wasn’t at my best. I had anger issues. I flared up at teachers, and the principal – it didn’t matter.”

She also found that she transitioned here as well.

“Today, I don’t get angry. I go to class and pay attention. Right now, I have all A and B grades.”

Her advice to her peers is no matter what happens, because she said obstacles will come their way, to always keep going.

Glover-Rolle, who believes in empowerment and education, in presenting Kieria with the scholarship, said Kieria is well on her way to success, and hopes the $30,000 academic scholarship would help her to achieve her dreams.

“Access to education is one of the most powerful investments we can make in our young people,” said Glover-Rolle. “I will continue to advocate for increased access to education and training opportunities to empower our young leaders like Kieria.”

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