THE COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a host of hindrances that served as additional stumbling blocks in the paths of some. Persons across every spectrum were robbed of financial opportunities, jobs, or even loved ones. While the challenges appeared to be stumbling blocks for some, they are hurdles for others to jump, and push themselves to achieve something significant.
One such person is an aspiring chemical engineer and Bishops’ High School alumna, 18-year-old Alizia Ash.
On August 22, 2020, Alizia received her unconditional acceptance letter into one of America’s leading tertiary education institutions: Seton Hall University, a private, Catholic university located in South Orange, New Jersey.
“I was elated when I received the news of my acceptance, because the journey was extremely rigorous due to circumstances, including the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), my mother losing her job, and losing both of my grandparents, compounded by additional financial difficulties,” Ash stated in a letter penned and posted to her GoFundMe website.
However, the young woman said that her dreams were “crushed” when she later received an email stating that she had only received a partial, merit-based scholarship of US$20,500 towards her flat-rate tuition, leaving a remainder of approximately US$42,000 to be paid every year for the next five years.
Alizia’s mother, who is a single parent, has made several sacrifices for her, especially when it comes to her education. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, she lost her job during the pandemic, and was unable to cover the remaining cost of tuition on such short notice.
Although Alizia’s acceptance was an accomplishment in itself, she stated that the possibility of not realising her dream of going to college was very real, and crushed her spirit. However, after speaking with some of her teachers, they advised her not to give up on her dreams. As a result, the teen and her mother agreed to defer her entry to university for a year, in the hope of securing funding.
“Throughout the past year, I have approached both the public and private sectors, seeking financial assistance. However, these efforts were futile, since, due to the pandemic, academic sponsorship fell to an all-time low,” the teen revealed in her letter.
Despite submitting multiple applications for scholarships and grants, both locally and internationally, Alizia was unsuccessful, due to her foreign status, as most of them required US residency. Regardless, she continued to try her luck by writing personal letters to ministers and other dignitaries, who she said did not respond.
Though disappointed, Alizia is determined that the huge sum will not deter her from taking up the challenge of representing her country to the best of her ability, as she did at the 2019 Global Young Leaders Conference.
“I believe that persons should help to fund my scholarship, because, not only am I very aspirational and very dedicated towards doing well in my academics, but I take great pride in representing my country, and doing well, and I want to help to develop the oil- and-gas sector. I believe that since we are a developing nation, and we have now ventured into the oil-and-gas sector, it is very fitting for our own young Guyanese students to be part of that sector,” Alizia shared, adding:
“Instead of having to bring in foreign nationals, we should encourage our students to study in those same fields, so that we can gain the experience, and develop the sector.”
Alizia is passionate about helping others, and she believes that once she secures her scholarship, she can help others by mentoring them in the process of getting ready for college.
“Chemical engineering is not something that a lot of Guyanese would opt for; it’s not even done at our local university. So, after I finish studying that, I can start mentoring others on how to get into this field; how to study for it; what are the things that you need to do, because, in preparing for university, especially when you are studying ‘outside’, there are certain things that I wish I had known beforehand, so that I would have been better able to handle certain situations. So, now that I have gone through that process, I believe that it is my duty to help and guide others who plan on studying either in the same field, or who plan on studying abroad,” she said.
Alizia sees herself as a learner, as well as a teacher, and acknowledged that she is a very expressive person, once comfortable. She was Guyana’s representative at the 2019 Global Young Leaders Conference, and a proud recipient of the Frank Anthony Award for her outstanding performance at the Annual Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Examination.
She is a former student of the Bishops’ High School, having attended Saint Stanislaus College for a year, before leaving to pursue higher education. She received five Grade Ones, two Grade Twos, and two Grade Threes at CSEC, and three Grade Ones, a Grade Two, and a Grade Three at CAPE.
She also practises volunteerism through the President’s Youth Award for the Republic of Guyana, and enjoys a bit of swimming and lawn tennis as well. Anyone interested in making a direct contribution to her cause may do so at the Scotiabank account number: 10043392, with the Branch/Transit number: 30775, or contribute towards her GoFundMe, at https://gofund.me/7c1f6def. The deadline for making those contributions is July 15, 2021.