Sunday, January 29, 2023

SUCCESS STORY

Njemile “Bless” Charles

Hospitality and Restaurant Management

 Associate Degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Management and Bachelor’s of Business Administration

Growing up as the last child of my mother’s eight (8) children, I was always passionate about sports in general but began to develop a special love for and keen interest in football. When I realized that my ability to play the sport was progressively improving, I began to nurture the dream of becoming a professional footballer. I also wanted to become a Physiotherapist but so fervent was my desire to play professional football, that, even whilst in high school and pursuing my Advanced level examinations, it remained etched in my mind.

The journey to realizing my dreams really took off when I attended a football Christmas camp in 2014 and met professional footballer Dwayne De Rosario. I left the camp at the end of the week thinking that nothing would come out of it, given that I had only attended a regular football camp.  To my surprise, about a month after the event, I received a very strange phone call which led to me being offered the opportunity of a tryout in New York. I was allowed some time to think about it before making a decision and I eventually chose to accept the challenge because I was a risk taker.

I attended the tryout, after which, a college coach, Alex, expressed interest in my talent and wanted to give me a scholarship offer to play football and study at the same time.

When the offer was made, I panicked a lot. I had reached so far, that I did not want anything to get in the way of pursuing my dream, like insufficient funding.

Being introduced to the Department of Advanced Training and Advisory Services (DATAS) of the Division of Education, Tobago House of Assembly was very bittersweet for me because my family was unable to assist me with all the tuition payments and I was afraid of missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime being turned down. However, the sweet part was when I met Mr. Mc Kenzie, Ms. Wilson and Ms. Hall who faithfully guided and assisted me with all the necessary information and drilling. I knew that once I accepted the offer, I would need to do my best, as a form of gratitude to them.

I felt very blessed and grateful to DATAS for demonstrating compassion to me and believing that I would one day be a success story for the Division. 

For the first two years, I was assisted by the Tobago House of Assembly with funding. For the next two years, I received a full scholarship from my coach due to my performance on and off the field, also I became a Residence Assistant (RA) which added to my scholarship. Knowing that they genuinely cared about my journey, I remained in contact with DATAS personnel, updating them on my progress.

I cannot begin to repay DATAS for facilitating access to the opportunity of a lifetime, given that my family was unable to assist with funding. Now because of DATAS, I am the first and only person in my family of eight siblings to have ever obtained a college degree.

I had expressed my interest in physiotherapy to Coach Alex but it seemed like he knew more about Tobago than I knew and talked me into studying Hospitality instead. I went on to complete my Associate Degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Management and then wanted to move to another College or University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree. Little did I know though, that Coach Alex already had other plans for me. He decided that he was not going to lose me on and off the field, so I ended up staying at Bryant & Stratton College, to pursue my Bachelor’s in Business Administration.

After completing my Bachelors, I wanted to be able to use it not just to secure a decent job but as a tool to give back to communities and to share my experience with others.

Being in a foreign country and on campus, I was faced with many challenges, including finance and family-related issues back home. However, I always kept it foremost in my mind, that I had to succeed on this journey, no matter what obstacles I encountered. I eventually let go and allowed God to take control and he did. There were many distractions as I aspired to always obtain a grade A or no less than a B+ in every class but I was committed to succeeding and so I studied and worked very hard. 

I also went to the gym quite often and together, these factors helped me to cope with the challenges I faced. I eventually fell in love with studying and found a way to balance football and schoolwork, both of which were important to me.

Whilst on campus, I had tremendous support from my coach, my housing director, my new friends, mother and sister, all of whom played a big role in easing my mind. I am also fortunate to be able to say, that I had an agent who was always there for me, even outside college time.

My greatest support came from Mr. McFarlane though. As my mentor, he spoke to me like a father would. He understood my journey so well, that I spoke to him about everything, even those times when I cried, smiled was angry or sad. For this, I wish to publicly say a special thanks to him for being such a great human being.

One of my main goals right now is to try and encourage more youths to work hard with whichever sport they choose, so that they too can leverage their sporting talent to pave a way forward via scholarship offers. Even if you are not into sports but good at a certain subject, my advice is to be on drive mode for it, as there are academic scholarship offers too. As my story demonstrates, in whatever you put your mind and body to do, please, give it your all because you never know who is watching and talking. All your hard work will never go unnoticed.