Giving up has never been an option for Corey Drakes; and that characteristic has brought him his highest reward so far.
After months of waiting –– on tenterhooks –– the 23-year-old has been awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Scholarship For Barbados to pursue his Master’s degree in medical radiation physics, a specialized field dealing with the treatment of cancer.
“I was very excited at first; but then I realized I had a lot of emailing to do to fill out my visa application form and submit it,” said Drakes, who received confirmation yesterday.
The Pavilion Road, Bank Hall, St Michael resident was among an estimated 32 Barbadians who had applied for the scholarship, and was placed on the reserved list in April. But Drakes almost missed out on the opportunity, though through no fault of his own.
“I was calling the Ministry of Education a few times to find out the date for the interviews and the application process for the Commonwealth Scholarship, and had been told the date hadn’t arrived yet. When I called back a week later I was told the deadline had passed and they were in the process of interviewing people.
“I went down there, sat as though I was about to be interviewed, had all of my documents; and a lady came out to me and said, ‘I don’t have any more persons on the schedule for today’. She asked, ‘What is your name?’ and I said, ‘Corey Drakes’, and I explained the situation . . . .
“I said I would really love if I could be given the opportunity to be interviewed for the scholarship . . . . So she went and called the chief education officers who were also sitting on the panel and they spoke to me. I showed them my credentials, we had a chat and they arranged for my interview the next day,” Drakes said.
While other applicants had two weeks to compose three mandatory essays, he had only five hours, and had to rush back to the Ministry of Education to submit them. After he had completed the interview, Drakes was placed on the reserved list in April.
He then decided to take matters into his own hands by seeking sponsors for the $120,000 programme.
“The reason why I was so confident in approaching people is because cancer has an effect on almost everyone, and I saw my course as being beneficial to the state of Barbados.
“The challenge came about when a lot of people said ‘because of the economic times and the enormous figure of your course we can’t give that amount of money’. Some people were willing to help, but only after others had made pledges, while some gave false promises.”
Through it all, Drakes said, he refused to give up hope. After all, his cousin Dr Dwayne Devonish, whom he grew up in the same household with, had already paved the way by being awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship in 2007.
Drakes graduated from the St Leonard’s Boys School with six CXC passes; did an Associate’s degree in mathematics and physics at the Barbados Community College; then pursued a double major in mathematics and physics at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, where he graduated with upper second class honours.
While at university, he gained the Patterson Cheltenham, QC, Scholarship and the Co-Curricular Bursary for overall academic achievements.
After completing university last year, Drakes became a part-time teaching assistant in preliminary mathematics and calculus to undergraduate students at the UWI. He also volunteered five days a week at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The harsh reality facing Barbados, as it relates to the prevalence of cancer and the shortage of people in his field, hit close to home for Drakes in January when his grandfather died from kidney cancer. His family, especially his grandmother Sybil Devonish, Drakes explained, had always been behind him.
“They have supported me from day one. Some gave financial support, others gave emotional support that you need, especially when you’re doing six subjects per semester in mathematics and physics –– which is very challenging,” he said.
And as for his motivation, the youth said, it was quite simple.
“When you walk into that department and you see these patients who are relatively sick, they’re receiving treatment, and you see the smiles they have on their faces, and the type of mannerisms that they have as well. These things keep me motivated, because I know I had a part to play in that smile,” Drakes recalled.
As he prepares to depart Barbados on September 19 for the one-year programme at the University College London, Drakes advises other young people with goals and ambition not to give up.
“Always remember to pray and to ask for guidance from the Most High God whom we serve. Secondly, you never give up. If you have a dream, you go after it and never give up. There are various scholarships out there, and if you work hard enough, then the financial burden would not be on you . . . .
“Once you make sure that your academic education and your GPA are high, then you can be an eligible candidate for a scholarship.”