From one CXC to MSc with distinction.
That’s the story of 31-year-old Castio Williams, who endured failure, tragedy, family challenges and financial difficulties, but triumphed.
He now proudly holds a Master of Science (MSc) degree in international public and development management from The University of the West Indies (UWI).
Williams hails from Trinity district in Porus, Manchester, where he attended Porus High School.
On entry to high school, the grade-seven diagnostic and aptitude led to his placement in stream five, with the high-achieving students.
He was an exceptional student and managed to maintain grades that qualified him to remain in the top stream, while being involved in football.
Williams cannot recall what led to his underperformance in his grade-10 examinations, but he didn’t recover... well, at least not at the time.
“This was horrific and embarrassing at the time. Mi bawl living eye wata,” he said, adding that based on his performance in those exams, he only amassed three signatures from teachers on his Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) recommendation sheet.
The then grade-11 student sat mathematics, English literature and principles of business, but only passed the latter.
“Honestly, I thought my life was over at that point. I remember begging the then school principal for a repeat of grade 11, which was denied. The school recommended me to their evening programme, where I would be able to do the re-sits for the subjects I failed. However, after two weeks of attending the evening programme, I discontinued as I just couldn’t settle in, as the feeling of embarrassment and shame gutted me each day. I just couldn’t,” he recounted.
For a year, he was not attending school and admitted that he got involved in “all manner of evil that young, marginalized, idle, hopeless males do”.
"God Mercies Kept Me"
“But God kept me, his mercies kept me,” Williams said.
Holmwood Technical High School granted him the second chance he needed and he was determined to make it count.
He was recommended to sit seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects after just two and a half months there.
This time around, he passed six subjects, earning five grade twos and a grade one.
Having forged a close relationship with the head guidance counsellor, Ms Sharpe, he was encouraged to move on to sixth form.
She assured him that she would assist with funding, as his parents did not have the resources to school him any further.
Williams successfully completed seven Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) units over the two-year period.
He had no plans of attending university, primarily because of financial constraints, but Ms. Sharpe insisted that he did.
When he got accepted at UWI in 2011, funding was secured through the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) for his programme of study, but he could not afford boarding fees.
Just in time, his cousin’s sister moved out of a residence they shared in Kingston and that created an opportunity for Williams to reside with him.
“I remember his younger brother started UTech at the same time I started UWI and the three of us shared the one room. Give thanks for the two beds,” he said.
Williams was beginning to adjust to university and life in another parish when his parents, who were married for 20 years, went through a “bitter divorce”.
He failed three of five courses in his first semester and his grade point average (GPA) going into the next semester was 0.36, with a warning status. He was subsequently referred for academic counselling, which allowed him to regain control and achieve a 3.6 GPA.
Not Without Challenges
While a full-time undergraduate student, he juggled two student assistant jobs, working 45 to 50 hours per week.
Despite failing courses, he was able to finish his BSc in Human Resource Management, with honours, within the minimum three-year period.
Article & Photo from: The Gleaner