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2024 Student Scholar - From Adversity to Advocacy: Shaneen Williams' Inspiring Path to Law



“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”– Arthur Ashe. This quote has always been one that Shaneen has taken to heart and implemented throughout her life. 


Shaneen Williams, a young woman born on August 25, 2005, has consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic and dedication to achieving excellence in all aspects of her life. Her academic journey began at the tender age of two when she enrolled at the Solas Early Childhood Institution. She continued her education at the Savanna la Mar Primary School, where she spent six years honing her skills and laying the foundation for her future success. At the age of eleven, Shaneen discovered her passion for law through her exposure to the popular television series ‘Law and Order’. This initial interest in law sparked a lifelong commitment to the field, which only intensified as she grew older. Her fascination with law expanded to encompass various crime and law-related media, both fictional and real, further solidifying her resolve to become a lawyer. Throughout her life, Shaneen has faced numerous challenges, including a period where she was at risk of becoming homeless at a young age. These experiences have not only strengthened her resolve but also driven her commitment to advocacy. For her, law serves as a constant reminder of the importance of advocacy and the critical role of justice in Jamaica. Her unwavering focus on becoming a lawyer has remained steadfast since the day she made the decision to pursue this career path.


However, behind the aspirations of a young woman lies a story of resilience and perseverance. Despite facing a myriad of health challenges and financial constraints, she remains steadfast in her pursuit of her dreams. This young woman has been diagnosed with a series of medical conditions, including moderately severe asthma, sinus issues, sickle cell trait and an autoimmune disease called ANA (Anti-nuclear antibodies) and more. These ailments have presented significant challenges in her daily life, requiring ongoing medical attention and care. The medical expenses associated with her health concerns have placed a substantial burden on her family. As she is not her parents' only responsibility, the financial strain has been compounded. However, she remains grateful for the support and love of her family and friends during this challenging time. Despite the obstacles she faces, the young woman's spirit remains unbroken. With the grace of God and the unwavering support of her loved ones, she continues to strive towards fulfilling her life's ambitions.


Despite facing health challenges during her time at Solas Early Childhood Institution School, Shaneen consistently gave her best effort, as noted by her principal at graduation: "Even though this little girl missed school so much, you would never know because she does excellent in school." This dedication and excellence continued throughout her six-year tenure at Savanna la Mar Primary School. Shaneen's commitment to her studies was evident in her roles as a prefect in every grade and a class monitor in Grade 4. Her involvement extended beyond the classroom, as she represented her school in various extracurricular activities, including the TVJ’s Junior School Challenge Quiz team, the Gleaner's Spelling Bee Competition, Girl Guides, and numerous other clubs. Shaneen's teachers and peers recognized her friendly demeanor and willingness to assist others, both inside and outside the classroom. Her academic achievements were remarkable, considering the numerous times she missed school due to her illnesses. Despite these challenges, Shaneen maintained her position as the top student in Grades 4 and 5 and secured second place in Grade 6.


In her final year at primary school, Shaneen achieved a remarkable milestone by excelling in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). Her outstanding performance earned her a spot at her top choice, Manning’s School, where she spent seven formative years, including completing the two-year sixth form program. During her time at Manning’s School, Shaneen demonstrated unwavering dedication to her academic pursuits and extracurricular activities. It was here that her aspirations truly flourished, showcasing her remarkable potential and passion for learning.


During her time at Mannings, despite facing health challenges that occasionally led to extended absences from school, she demonstrated remarkable resilience and dedication to her academic pursuits. Despite these setbacks, she consistently performed well academically, achieving top placements in all her classes. Her impressive academic record was further recognized through various awards and achievements, including 2nd place at the Prize Giving ceremony for both 4th and 5th forms, 1st place in the Lower Six Arts Department and two spots on the CAPE regional merit list for Unit 1 Spanish and Literatures in English (June 2023). Upon completing fifth form, she successfully passed all her CSEC exams, earning three grade ones and five grade twos.


This young lady has always believed in the power of giving back to her community. Throughout her time at Manning's High School, she has channelled this belief into action, dedicating herself wholeheartedly to various extracurricular activities. Shaneen’s leadership skills and commitment to excellence shone through as she took on senior executive roles in numerous clubs and societies. Most notably, she served as the President of the Manning's Chorale for two consecutive years, from 2021 to 2023. Her involvement didn't stop there, she also held the position of Dance President in the Performing Arts Society, the Vice-President and Treasurer of the Leo Club, the Spirit Committee and the Debating Society, just to name a few. 


On May 23rd, 2024, Shaneen's tireless efforts and unwavering dedication finally culminated in a remarkable achievement. She was honoured as a 2024 Josephine Lily Wolf Memorial Scholarship Recipient, securing a full tuition scholarship to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI) to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Law.


Shaneen is making significant progress in her academic pursuits. She has already achieved five passes at the CAPE level, which is a notable accomplishment. Currently, she is enrolled in the prestigious Manning’s Sixth Form Programme, where she is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Law. Her academic focus includes a diverse range of subjects such as Law, Spanish, Literatures in English, Caribbean Studies, and Environmental Science. 


Shaneen's remarkable journey has been a testament to her unwavering determination and resilience. She has come to realize that it is not just about overcoming obstacles, but about embracing them as opportunities for personal growth and self-improvement. This mindset has allowed her to transform into a stronger and more resilient individual, better equipped to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.


Inspired by the wisdom of Mark Victor Hansen, “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.” Her unwavering commitment to her goal of making a lasting impact within the legal sector of her country has brought her one step closer to achieving her vision. She acknowledges that her success would not have been possible without the unwavering support of her family, friends, and well-wishers. Most importantly, she credits God for the love and guidance that have sustained her throughout her journey. She believes that without the constant encouragement and love from these sources, she would not have been able to accomplish what she has so far. She is resolute in her pursuit of academic excellence and remains committed to being a force for good in her community, consistently demonstrating her dedication to serving others. 

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Congratulations Shaneen! We are honored to have you representing the foundation! You are deserving of this opportunity!

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