For Shelice Escoffery, matriculating to university and studying to become an immigration officer isn’t just about her realizing her dream. It means more than that to her. It symbolizes the picture a proud parent had of her child’s future, a vision her late mother shared with anyone who would listen, right up until she took her last breath.

Eighteen-year-old Shelice has been crafting her story of success from birth. The only girl for both parents, she has six brothers and is the only one who has pursued higher education. Escoffery graduated from the Green Island Primary School with the second highest grades for girls and was placed at the Mannings School in Westmoreland. Her mother, after learning about the Sandals Foundation Care for Kids Scholarship, handed in an application to the Sandals and Beaches Negril Public Relations office. With her exceptional grades, and evident need for financial assistance, Shelice was awarded a five year scholarship to complete her secondary education.

Sandals Foundation Care for Kids Scholarship recipient Shelice Escoffery (left) enjoys a quick chat with Regional Public Relations Manager for Sandals and Beaches Resorts, Negril Jervene Simpson.

Care for Kids, a five-year program that runs through high school is awarded annually in August for the upcoming school year. Upon successful completion of the five years, students have the opportunity to receive additional assistance once accepted into an advanced level program.

Escoffery shared that this scholarship ensured that her educational pursuits were not hampered by financial constraints. “I didn’t really have the help of my father so my main financial support came from my mother and my big brothers.” She also shared that this scholarship took a big weight off her mother’s shoulders; “the Sandals Foundation scholarship provided for a lot of my high school needs. My tuition fee was covered as well as my books, uniforms and school supplies. We are not from a wealthy background so you can imagine how thankful we were to not have to worry about this every year. I knew that once my grades were good, the Foundation would cover these expenses on time, every single year. It was still difficult for my mother to cover the other expenses but we pushed through. I never ever complained. I made it work,” she shared.

Escoffery was on the honour roll for all five years and was always in the top three performers in her class at Mannings. “My mother wasn’t able to help me with my assignments, neither did she understand the high school curriculum, but I could never have asked for a better supporter or study partner.  I would write the questions and answers on paper and ask her to quiz me. As soon as my report was collected, she would drop it off at Sandals Negril. She was never late with that. I remember in third form when my mother said if I made the honour roll again she would gift me with a trip overseas. She really wanted for me to have that experience, so she sacrificed a few of her plans to make sure she could afford the ticket for me.”

A year later felt the harsh sting of losing a loved one after one of her closest cousins was tragically killed. “I took it hard and so did my mother, but as always, my mom would still encourage me to stay strong and do well. She would tell everyone that I was going to be an immigration officer,” she recalls smilingly.

Sandals Foundation scholarship recipient Shelice Escoffery featured in her Mannings School graduation attire

Little did Shelice know that the same advice her mom gave her when she was mourning her cousin, would be the same advice she would have to lean on in December 2019, just six months before sitting her exams for her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) when she lost her mother, her biggest supporter, to pancreatic cancer.

Her mother who had fallen ill in August 2019 was in and out of hospital until she passed. Shelice recalls taking her CSEC documents to the hospital for her mother to sign as she prepared to sit her exams. She would visit her every day after school and on weekends. Whilst studying and going to classes, she would also wash her mother’s clothing, bring food for her and update her daily. “I had immense support from friends and family all the way through. We knew she was sick but not what her illness was. My mother did not tell us, she didn’t want us to worry. We found out after she died that it was pancreatic cancer,” she shared.

Escoffery resorted to her coping mechanism, which were the memories of her mother encouraging her to go after her goals. “I live as if my mother is still with me; I am just not seeing her in person.” Months after her passing, Shelice sat her CSEC exams and received six grade ones and two grade twos. She later matriculated to the Bachelor of Science Degree programme in Customs Processes, Freight Forwarding and Immigration at the Caribbean Maritime University.

Currently in her second semester, Escoffery’s dream was again made possible by the Sandals Foundation who offered to cover her tuition fee, “I have always wanted to become an immigration officer. I admire how they carry themselves and the role they play in protecting our immigration laws and securing their country’s borders,” she continued “I am just blessed and thankful to such a wonderful organization, for helping me throughout my educational journey. Especially now, with Sandals being so greatly affected by the pandemic, them still helping me with my tuition this year is such a huge  blessing. I could never have started my programme if it wasn’t for this scholarship. Thanks a million to the Sandals Foundation and the Sandals family for your hand in helping me to realize my goals and my mother’s eternal dream for me,” concluded a grateful Shelice.

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