Danielle Jathan faced numerous challenges while growing up. Attending Campion College in St Andrew, she often struggled to afford bus fare, with her parents sometimes only able to provide half the amount. On even more desperate occasions, her grandmother, Sandra Smith, would accompany her to the bus stop and ask for rides to ensure Danielle could make it to school. Despite the embarrassment, Danielle understood that her parents were doing their best for her.
Raised in the tough neighborhood of Waterhouse, St Andrew, Danielle’s mother, Aneika Walcott, faced difficult circumstances and lacked the support of Danielle’s father. This made it challenging for her to provide regular meals for Danielle and her two sisters, Gabrielle and Breana. Witnessing her mother and grandmother’s struggles, Danielle realized that education was her ticket out of poverty. She aimed to break the generational cycle of poverty in her family. At Campion, she found herself surrounded by classmates who had more resources than she did.
Overcoming Challenges Means Digging Deeper
“I lacked basic resources like school textbooks or Wi-Fi, so I had to go to other people’s houses to do my work. I borrowed computers and laptops from others, but I had to put in extra effort and stay up all night teaching myself,” she explained. Even studying at home became difficult, as loud music from neighbors’ speaker boxes and frequent events disrupted her focus. The violence in her community also took a toll on her emotional well-being. Despite these challenges, Danielle excelled in her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) exams. She passed nine subjects in CSEC, earning distinctions in mathematics and principles of business. In CAPE, she achieved eight passes while attending sixth form at The Queen’s School.
Danielle’s journey into higher education began at The University of West Indies, Mona (UWI), where she majored in biochemistry in 2018. However, her time at UWI was cut short as she received a full scholarship from New Seasons Youth Program, an organization in Georgia, USA, dedicated to assisting youth from Africa and the Caribbean in accessing tertiary education. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, she has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA at LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC) in Memphis, Tennessee. Recently, she had the honor of representing LOC at the White House during a week of activities focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. There, she participated in a NASA competition and her team emerged as winners. Danielle’s ultimate dream is to become a pediatrician. While she has overcome significant obstacles, she acknowledges that she still has a way to go before achieving her goals.
“With all the crime, violence, and distractions in my community, such as early pregnancies and gang violence, I knew I wanted to rise above it all. I am determined to lift my family out of those circumstances and reach a point where I can give back to my community and Jamaica as a whole. I want young girls with similar backgrounds to know that they can succeed despite the struggles they face at home. I want to change the perception of Waterhouse, showing that it’s not just about guns, teenage pregnancy, and gang violence,” she expressed passionately.