A series of unfortunate events that diverted a quiet 20-year-old man’s technical education plans, left him paralysed and struggling to pay for his studies, have led him to an unlikely path – and a full scholarship to send him all the way to his new goal.
Tyrell McCollin, whose life was turned upside by down when a runaway car knocked him down on his way to building and drafting studies at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic Institute of Technology, has received Caribbean Catalyst’s 15th Annual Kregg Nurse Memorial Scholarship – for a banking and finance major.
After completing his secondary education, McCollin decided to pursue an Associate Degree in Architecture at the Barbados Community College (BCC), but because the programme was not being offered that year, he enrolled in a Land Surveying Associate Degree course at BCC, and also studied Building and Drafting at SJPIT on evenings.
But on May 8, 2014, the crash ended a year of study at the SJPIT, leaving him hospitalised for a year and a quadriplegic.
Unable to complete his land surveying studies due to limited mobility, McCollin changed his career path and decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting at UWI at Cave Hill.
But after one year of university, high transport costs forced him to cancel classes.
Faced with the decision on whether to pursue higher education or quit school, he chose to enroll in an online degree programme at UWI’s Open Campus.
His struggle to manage his personal finances sparked further interest in the financial and economic systems, leading him to change his field of study from accounting to banking and finance, he said.
At a brief ceremony at Caribbean Catalyst’s River Road office, a delighted McCollin thanked the Nurse family and Caribbean Catalyst for their continuous support of the scholarship programme and expressed gratitude to family members and friends who pushed him to make an application.
“I am not one for much conversation. I am a bit of an introvert, but I would like to tell those with disabilities that life is difficult at times, but once you keep trying at something, you are bound to succeed.”
McCollin applied for the scholarship in 2017, but he was not selected as a finalist as he did not meet the criteria of having completed the first year at a tertiary
He then continued his studies and reapplied for the academic award. He is now in the second year of a Bachelor’s Degree in Banking and Finance.
He said he intends to use the knowledge he acquires to gain employment within a financial services environment or pursue an entrepreneurial venture that would allow him to contribute to society and inspire others with disabilities.
McCollin said that from a young age, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in construction and real estate but credits his setbacks with redirecting his career path to banking and finance.
He said that since he changed his major, he has been engaged not only in academic studies but also in local, regional and international politics and economics.
The student said he intends to use the monetary award from the scholarship to assist with his medical and everyday expenses.
Although he no longer attends school physically, McCollin’s medical and life expenses continue to be financially challenging.
But he said his thirst to succeed was a willingness not to allow his disability to define him.
The scholarship, named for Nurse, who would have celebrated his 43rd birthday today, memorialises his refusal to allow disability to become an inability.
Graduating from UWI with an accounting degree, Nurse became a Certified General Accountant with accounting firm Ernst and Young. He died in 2004.
The scholarship funded by Caribbean Catalyst with the support of Nurse’s mother, Linelle Nurse, to use his legacy to encourage disabled students to continue their education to prepare them for meaningful employment opportunities.
This year, there were four applications for the Scholarship Award.
After interviewing the applicants for this year’s Scholarship, two finalists were selected, McCollin and Nikkolai Clarke-Herbert.
Clarke-Herbert, 24, a UWI student, has completed the first year of his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, with the intention of owning a video game company. He hopes to continue his studies overseas at a college that offers studies in video game design.
Clarke-Herbert who was the first runner up has been diagnosed as a paraplegic with paralysis from the waist down from a car crash three days after his first birthday.