Kerine Davis was raised in the “ghetto” but has risen to become the founder of a college that is not only training ad imparting knowledge but also giving out scholarships to less privileged people in Jamaica.
Davis is the founder of Ocho Rios College, which has gained a reputation for providing millions of dollars worth of scholarships to at-risk young people. The majority of the scholarship recipients are from tough communities like Faulkland, also called Mansfield Heights, in her native country Jamaica.
“The last graduation we had in January of this year, I gave away 40 scholarships to the 40 graduates and told them to find somebody in their community and give the scholarships to. That was my way of giving back – of reaching out to someone who is in need,” Davis told The Beacon.
What makes Davis’ story intriguing is the fact that she is a former school dropout. She was raised by a dad who is a disciplinarian. He ensured that she and her three other siblings were kept in line. However, Davis had to drop out of school when she got pregnant in Grade 10.
“My mind wasn’t in the right place at that time,” she told The Beacon. “Of course my parents were so much disappointed, but I had to just go along with whatever happened.”
Her education was temporarily truncated after childbirth as her parents did not have money to send her back to school. “My parents weren’t rich, but they tried their best as long as they were responsible for us. Once I got pregnant, I had to start taking on life by myself,” she explained.
In order to fend for herself and her newborn baby, Davis went job hunting and was lucky to land a job in a restaurant.
“When the manager gave me that job, it was a Wednesday afternoon. She gave me 900 Best Dressed chickens to marinate and clean,” Davis recalled. “I marinated and cleaned those chickens as if I am filing the documents in my office. That’s how I did it with pride.”
She recalled picking up the slack for a cashier who did not show up for work on a particular day. She received a lot of commendation for her service and a customer even wrote about her in a Jamaican newspaper. This singular act became the turning point for Davis. She landed a job at Sandcastles Resort in Ocho Rios. After saving for a while, she ventured into the transport industry by purchasing a Toyota Caldina motorcar to start a taxi business.
Davis eventually went back to school, leading to her obtaining certificates in nursing and business administration. In addition to her taxi business, she opened an internet café – T&G Employment Agency and Document Centre.
Through her internet café, she realized that many people who patronized her service lacked basic skills, and so she started to assist them. “I started [the college] from helping people who came to the internet café,” she told The Beacon.
The former taxi operator started Ocho Rios College with 40 students. Today, her college offers a wide range of courses, including hospitality, business, and medicine.