~ It all started with one step ~
Inspiring words from Sara Haynes-Cousins
2016 USM Graduate
I came from very humble beginnings. I grew up in one of the rural parts of Jamaica. I lived with my parents and two younger siblings. I can remember the three of us sharing one bed and one pillow. I can remember carrying water in a bucket on my head, from a pipe about half mile from my house every day. I also remember attending high school and coming home every evening to do my homework from the light of a “home sweet home” lamp, because we did not have the luxury of electricity. That was one of the many travails of rural life.
I must be quick to admit, though, that none of these trials affected my desire to succeed academically. My father was a farmer and a tailor and he worked hard to make sure that food was always on the table and he impressed upon me the virtues of excelling academically, as well as underscoring the satisfying merits of having a good social conscience.
From as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to become a teacher. I decided to become a teacher because I wanted to motivate, encourage and educate children because I was fascinated by them. Although I have always loved to be around children, it was not until I had my own child that I realized how important education was, and how passionate I was about being part of this process.
This trajectory started in 2006 when I left St. Maarten to study in Maryland in the United States. I majored in English and minored in Elementary Education. Due to financial constraints I was unable to continue with my studies in the states and decided to return to St. Maarten to work. Approximately seven years had passed and I spent the time working and raising my young son. It was not until 2013 that I decided to start back school to continue on my journey of becoming an educator.
I registered for the Bachelor’s degree program in Education at University of St. Martin (USM). When I found out the cost it would be to study for the degree, I was in awe. I wondered where I would get money to pay this tuition. Even on a payment plan, it would still be expensive for me since I was only working part-time at a day care centre.
I was very determined to start, anyway, so after many attempts and promises to the registrar that I would return, I finally decided to register: I would start with just one class. In January 2013, I started with my first course towards the education program. I was clueless about where I would acquire the tuition for the following semesters. That’s when someone at the university encouraged me to apply for a scholarship with AUC (American University of the Caribbean). I immediately ascertained what documents I would need to fill out and applied for the scholarship before the due date.
During the summer holidays, I waited anxiously for a call to see if I had gotten the scholarship, but I got no call. A week before school started in August, I got an email from AUC that I was awarded a full scholarship for the entire duration of the education program. I grabbed my son and I jumped all around the room and praised and thanked the Lord for his mercies. I was so delighted. I don’t even have words to express how I felt that day.
I knew that moment was the genesis of the realization of my dreams. So today I would like to publicly give a big Thank You to AUC for its generous contribution towards my education. It has allowed me to fulfil my lifelong goal of becoming a teacher and pushed me in a different trajectory with my life.
My journey was not without struggles, though. I became a professional juggler. I juggled being a mother, wife, teacher’s aide and student all at the same time. Many nights after classes were finished; I had to wait at the bus stop up to 9:00pm waiting for a ride to get home. When I got home, I would have to still pick up my young son who was already sleeping. By the time I finished my homework or was done studying for the next day’s test, it would be 2:00am.
Saying it was hard work would be an understatement; the journey was not an easy one. But with faith, determination and God’s grace, you can do anything you put your mind to. I would like to encourage anyone who has a desire to succeed academically to follow their dreams. Martin Luther King said, “You don’t always have to see the entire staircase, all you have to do is make the first step.”
I have adopted that quote and used it throughout my journey. I am proud to say that I was successful and on June 18, 2016, I graduated from the University of St. Martin with honours (Magna Cum Laude) and I now have a Bachelor’s degree in Education.
I have taken away a lot from the University experience. I now understand the naked reality of the teaching profession. My experiences are candid reflections that will definitely push me on the trajectory to becoming a highly effective teacher. My ultimate goal is to touch and to make a positive difference in the life of every child who enters my classroom.