Her father was murdered in the community of Majesty Gardens, where she was born and raised, but Desrine Bryce still calls the gritty Corporate Area community home.
Bryce is adamant that she will not leave the area, popularly called ‘Back To’, until she has motivated and encouraged as many young people as she can to reach their full potential.
The 32-year old grew up in the Kingston 11 community with her mother, father, and four brothers. When she was just eight years old, her father was killed in the community. Fifteen years later, no one has been arrested for his murder.
“When I was growing up, I really resented the community. I resented everyone that I knew that was involved because I knew the persons who were involved. I resented their kids, and I didn’t like them. I didn’t speak to people because of it, so I would just go to school, and when I came from school, I would just go in and I stay in,” Bryce told The Sunday Gleaner.
“As I grew older and became a teenager, I started to see the community and seeing persons hopeless, and stuff like that, so I decided that I wanted to be a part of some form of development for the community. I started a youth group with some of my peers, and we decided that we were going to gather other youths and we are going to be motivators for them,” said Bryce.
She completed grade 11 at the Greater Portmore High School in St Catherine with no subjects to her name as her mother was unemployed at the time and was unable to pay for the external examinations.
“It was hard to secure the funds to pay for CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) exams, so I didn’t get to do them. However, I was good at cosmetology in high school, so a teacher encouraged me to pursue it at Heart academy, so I did that after I left high school,” said Bryce.
The mother of two said she used the money she earned from her cosmetology skills to send herself to evening school to get the required subjects needed to move on to college.
‘Wanted To Inspire’
“That was my aim. I wanted to graduate from college because I didn’t see a lot of persons from my family background finishing high school, getting a decent job, or going to college to further their education. So I wanted to do that, and I wanted to ensure that I showed my brothers and other family members that if I do it, they can do it, so I pushed myself,” said Bryce.
She said that just before she started college, she was searching for a full-time job but couldn’t get one because of the stigma attached to her community.
“Persons said that I’m from Majesty Gardens, so I’m going to complain that shot a fire and me can’t come a work, or me have to go home early because shot a fire. So I wasn’t able to secure a job,” said Bryce.
But Bryce was able to secure an internship, through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund Poverty Reduction Programme, and was placed at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management for one year.
During that period, she worked while going to college and was able to assist her family and herself.
Byrce, who now has a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the Excelsior Community College, said that as a result of being involved in the youth group in her community, she received three full scholarships from the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) to fund her studies.
She now serves as a community case-management officer for the CSJP.
“I still live in Majesty Gardens because I am not in a rush to just go out. I want to be a part of the development of my community and the change. I believe that good things can happen in the community, and if I am there, other persons can see me as a motivation, and they can do well,” declared Byrce.
By: Carlene Davis