Jamaican scholar flies flag high in US college
At the recent graduation ceremony of prestigious New York tertiary institution Monroe College, the largest international cohort from a single country outside the US, 71, came from Jamaica.
The flag bearer was Shanique McKenzie of Hartland district, St Ann, who, after five years of study, completed both her bachelor's and master's degrees, majoring in business administration, with a concentration in business analytics.
"I was honoured to be the representative for Jamaica, bringing that flag at the flag parade of the graduation. I wanted to make sure that I stood as a representation of what we are and what we stand for," she told THE STAR, the pride evident in her voice.
Her decision to leave Jamaica came after recruiters from Monroe visited Moneague College, where she was enrolled in an associate degree programme studying criminal justice. Craving a new environment and greater exposure, she transferred her credits.
"I've been to all the levels of education in Jamaica so I just wanted to explore something more, to broaden my horizon essentially. At first, I was a bit hesitant and I went in kind of home-sick, being away from Jamaica and the people that I knew. But by the time I started going to the classes and things like that, I realised that Monroe College is like a big melting pot," McKenzie related.
McKenzie said that her parents made several sacrifices so that she and her sister received the highest quality education. Her father is a policeman and her mother is a probation officer, but despite their careers, the Westwood High School graduate was quick to indicate that they did not directly influence her initial field of study.
"I just grew up watching Law and Order and I just had a gravitation towards law. That was initially my career path that I wanted to go down and it is still my end goal, maybe not now. I wouldn't say necessarily they influenced my decision, but I could say they played a part. While at school, I was a part of the debate team and it gave me a sense of purpose. I like speaking, I like knowing that I can be a voice for the silent and I felt that a law degree would aid in that and that is why I initially pursued criminal justice," McKenzie explained.
Now having completed her degree, she has started working with the Alumni Association of the Monroe College and is the chapter president of the National Association of Black Accountants, a prestigious organisation for people of colour who are interested in careers in accountancy.
She is encouraging Jamaicans to take the leap of faith to explore tertiary education overseas.
"You have to seek out scholarships and the way how you get that is by networking and seeking the opportunities and applying for these things. A lot of the time we think about just the tuition and how we are going to make it and things like that. We don't try to seek out the opportunities," she said. "My mother always say to me 'Once you start, you will finish' and that's exactly what happened for me. I sought out the opportunity and I applied for the scholarships. It's about when you come here, you make your mark, put yourself out there and make your mark and take advantage of the opportunities that come to you."