Whitney Houston’s song, ‘The Greatest Love of All’ begins with the lyrics, “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way…” resonates at The Insurance Company of the West Indies (ICWI).
Nearly thirty years ago, the ICWI Group of Companies created a Staff Education Fund, as part of an on-going effort to expand the range of benefits available to employees of member companies and to promote academic excellence throughout Jamaica.
Flash forward to the year 2020, and the long-lasting impact of being a recipient of ICWI’s Staff Education Fund has been realized by a young Jamaican who recently received a full scholarship to Yale University. Mr Kahlil Walker, the son of ICWI staff member Mrs Dawn Walker, was a consistent recipient of a scholarship from ICWI during his primary and secondary educational journey. Kahlil was a scholarship awardee of ICWI from the age of six until he graduated high school.
Kahlil has now received a full scholarship to Yale. When asked what role ICWI played in motivating him to reach for the stars, he had a straightforward answer, “I made up my mind long ago that I was going to earn that scholarship every year, for me and my family.” That drive stuck with him throughout his life, and now he is at one of the world’s most prestigious Universities.
Kahlil has followed in the footsteps of some of ICWI’s children who were earlier recipients, and who are now thriving in the fields of Medicine, Law, Accounting, Business Management, Science, Nuclear Medicine and the list could go on and on.
Chairperson of the ICWI Group Foundation, Mrs Valerie Reynolds remembers the exact moment Mrs Walker called to inform her of Kahlil’s scholarship. “When Dawn called to let me know that Kahlil had not only gotten into Yale, but received a full scholarship, tears filled my eyes, and I felt goosebumps all over my body. One would have thought he was my child; but that is what it is like here at ICWI, we are all part of a happy family, and I am happy that ICWI’s Education Fund played a role in his achievement.”
The Fund is developed through employees’ voluntary contributions each month, plus matching funds from ICWI. Therefore, the number and value of awards made each year are directly linked to the level of financial support given by staff members.
The Fund provides support for children of permanent employees between the ages of six and sixteen, who have demonstrated excellence through academic achievement, and the awards are given annually. Since inception, an average of fifteen awards have been given each year to boys and girls; over the last fifteen years, ICWI has granted 175 scholarships and a total of $5M.
To qualify, students must have a proven academic record of at least an “A-” average, and demonstrate leadership potential and interest in the wider society, through extra-curricular activities.
When asked about the benefits of the Fund, Mrs Reynolds noted that the benefits go beyond the financial reward. “There is both a financial and psychological benefit for employees and their children, awards can extend up to five years at both levels, but more importantly, through this programme, employees and the Company together, encourage “our” children islandwide to strive for academic achievement.”
The ICWI Group Foundation manages the ICWI Staff Education Fund; as a registered charity, the Foundation carries out several education-related projects across the island, including the administration and coordination of the Staff Education Fund Awards Programme.