Wed | Jun 7, 2023

‘I pushed through without money’

Young teacher at CASE shares success after surmounting a myriad of challenges

Published:Saturday | March 26, 2022 | 12:08 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Royal tends to escallion; one of his major projects as crop supervisor at CASE.
Royal tends to escallion; one of his major projects as crop supervisor at CASE.

Decoy Royal recounts his years as a teen selling okra in the May Pen market in Clarendon as the most difficult years of his life.

The 28-year-old, now an agriculture teacher and supervisor for the crop production department at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), his alma mater, said that his journey to success was one riddled with a plethora of challenges.

He said despite his parents’ unrelenting efforts to ensure he got ahead in life, there were serious financial constraints. Royal’s days of going to school without lunch and bus fare propelled him to rise above his circumstances, as he was determined to escape a life of poverty.

“Life was difficult. [The community] was violent and you don’t really see the light. You don’t really see where it’s possible for young people to make it, or have an education and become something. The norm would be you get a work to buy some day-to-day survival items and that’s it,” said Royal, who grew up in the Howells Content area of York Town in south-western Clarendon.

“I didn’t get a lot of opportunities because my parents couldn’t afford it, but I pushed through even without money to go to school without lunch. I even did some of my CXC subjects without lunch,” said Royal, who passed seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects.

Getting to Kemps Hill High School from his York Town-based home with no money was difficult, but an optimistic Royal took a leap of faith each day.

“Most times I would just go in the taxi without fare, and I remember one time this taxi operator would always wait until I reached the school gate him talk a bag of stuff.” He related, however, how his life became a little easier through the kind gesture of another taxi operator.

Shedding light on the morning that brought some ease to his life, he told The Gleaner that he took a taxi and told the driver he had no fare. He said the taxi man immediately stopped the car and berated him, saying it was not water he used to operate his vehicle.

“I started to explain to him that I didn’t have any money, my mother didn’t have any money, and he started showing a little empathy and that taxi guy told me that any time I see him, I should just stop him and just go in the trunk. Even sometimes when there’s nobody in the car, I just go in the trunk and sometimes he would call me over and give me a seat.”

Expressing regret, Royal said he lost contact with the kind taxi operator but said he keeps him in his prayers.

Referencing a myriad of financial woes, he said he made the decision to assist his mother in the market. Royal began plying his trade as an okra vendor at age 14. That, he said, was no easy feat. “It was difficult, especially when you’d see your classmates and they would point at you and laugh. It made me feel depressed, like I was not human like everybody else and I was in a lower class,” he told The Gleaner.

Sights set on better life

Though discouraged, Royal was not deterred, because etched in his mind was the economic situation of his family which he had vowed to change even as his sights were set on a better life for his mother and six younger siblings. “We are not so privileged in terms of opportunity and money. We don’t really have it, so I figured I have to make a difference in my family,” he said.

Citing education as his only route out of poverty, Royal said amid the woes and adversities, he remained relentless to achieve.

A silver lining glistened from his dark clouds when he copped a scholarship to pursue an associate degree at CASE. Upon completion, however, Royal said he became despondent about his future, as he pondered where he would get the funding to pursue a bachelor of science degree.

He found a ray of hope when he got the opportunity to earn an income through the ‘learn-and-earn’ programme at CASE, offering his services on the college farm. He also lauded CASE for affording him a flexible payment plan, and the SEPROD foundation granted him another scholarship. Royal recently graduated with honours, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in education in advanced teaching.

The young professional shared that his passion for agriculture was unearthed in high school when he became familiar with the school’s farm unit. “It had nothing to do with selling in the market with my mother because I didn’t feel good about that, I felt like a slave,” he said.

Contrasting his life a few years ago to now, he said: “I feel so good because no matter where you start, there is always a way. God is a major part of my success. The Lord, Himself motivated and directed me into the right path.”

He added that his family, community and church members are also integral to his success. “I also got strong motivation and assistance from the president of CASE, Derrick Deslandes, who always seeks opportunities to assist students,” said a grateful Royal.

When quizzed on advice for youth who may be experiencing challenges, he said: “Success is not going to come immediately. Have faith in God and stick towards your goal, because as long as you don’t give up, the finish line is always a must.”