‘Persistence and perseverance pays off,' successful former student tells new graduates
Don't let your circumstances be an excuse to your future success or you'll end up with a “just enough” life.
This was the hard-hitting message from former CedarBridge Academy student Jamari Douglas, who battled against the odds to land his dream job in the US.
Mr Douglas, who was guest speaker at yesterday's CedarBridge Academy graduation ceremony, told students that “persistence and perseverance pays off”.
He claimed to have “shattered the stereotypes” of black men who grew up in single-parent homes in the back-of-town.
The 26-year-old marketing manager for the Department of Tourism's New York office has an apartment with floor to ceiling windows on Wall Street.
He told the Class of 2011 it had always been his dream to go to Morehouse College in Atlanta then live in New York.
He said: “Anyone who knows me knows that's all I talked about. Morehouse was always my dream.
“Since I was about ten I had this vision, I just envisioned where I wanted to be.
“There wasn't always a plan but I knew where I wanted to be and now I'm doing it.”
Mr Douglas grew up in Deepdale, Pembroke, with his mom and twin brother. He was a prefect and student council member at CedarBridge Academy and graduated in 2003.
He then won a place in a Rotary Exchange Programme and spent a year in Japan, where he learned to speak the language fluently.
Mr Douglas eagerly filled in the application form for Morehouse and said he was “devastated, hurt and upset” when he was not accepted.
He said: “It had been my goal for about ten years and it really hurt. But I wasn't giving up, I was like, 'Ok, Morehouse, I'm coming.'”
He attended Bermuda College for a year and maintained his honour roll student status.
He then reapplied to Morehouse and was delighted to get the 'we-want-you' letter.
Mr Douglas said he had always asked questions about who his father was and why he wasn't around. Then he decided: “Father, this is how you are and this is not how I want to be.”
His second Morehouse application form focused on who he did not want to be and how he did not want to be a man who shirked his responsibilities.
Mr Douglas told the students: “My life could have been very, very different. The reality is that you can turn any situation around.
“You have to work hard for things you want. It takes hard work and a lot of sacrifice.
“I don't want you to make do with a 'just enough' life, I want you to live a great one.”
Mr Douglas urged the students to take advantage of every single positive opportunity in their lives without making excuses.
He said: “People look at people who are successful and say 'you're very lucky'.
“But it has nothing to do with luck, it is hard work.”
It is now Mr Douglas' ambition to be Bermuda's youngest ever director of tourism.
He said the reason he was on stage speaking was because a CedarBridge teacher e-mailed his mom.
He said he was sitting at his desk at work when he got an e-mail from his mother saying: “CedarBridge Academy graduation, you're doing it.”
He admitted he had been nervous speaking to the crowd but he hoped students would learn from his personal story.