How It All Began?
On the morning of Thursday, January 24, 2008, at 7:45 am, while on an assignment in Jamaica with Microsoft, Shemiele Da’Briel and her former classmates (Allison Richards and Ann-Maria Bennett) presented gifts to their alma mater, St. Jago High School, during the morning devotional. They shared stories about how the education they received at St. Jago enabled them to have successful careers.
During the presentation, Shemiele encouraged the students to pursue their dreams and told them that they could be whatever they desire, and she offered to get them mentors in their field of choice. At the end of the devotion, she asked the students to write down their names, contact information and desired careers on a piece of paper. She collected 46 pieces of paper and then started the mission to find mentors for these students.
She was very impressed with the dreams of the students, especially one who wrote that he wanted to be a Physicist and that he would like to win the Nobel Prize in Physics one day. With the realization that the students needed help to realize their dreams, she and a friend had a brainstorming session about what to call the organization; they landed on Dream Jamaica. Shemiele immediately created an online community with the students on Ning.
Shemiele grew up with a strong mother in a loving home; she was nurtured by a supportive environment at church, at school, and in the community. She was always encouraged to excel and to set and achieve big bold audacious goals. She was told that if she worked hard, she could achieve any dream. The people around her had high expectations of her. This foundation helped her achieve her goals in life.
With an ever-increasing number of remote parents (i.e., Jamaicans migrating to get jobs so that they can provide food, clothes, and shelter for their families), many children in Jamaica are left with relatives or friends, who oftentimes don’t provide a supportive environment. Additionally, due to deteriorating standards, the level of education available to the average Jamaican student is mediocre. As a result, only the top-performing students (or the well-connected students) make it past secondary/high school into college/university. After successfully completing a university degree, again, the number of jobs available is very limited; at this point, mostly the well-connected will get hired. There are many graduates who remain unemployed for a long period of time after graduation.
As a result, crime is rampant, moral decay is rife, and ambition among students is waning primarily because they don’t see how dreams can be realized.
Shemiele created Dream Jamaica to inspire students to dream, and to show them how to achieve those dreams. Dream Jamaica (1) provides students exposure to a broad range of professions and educational resources; (2) establishes a network of professionals, and facilitates the opportunity for students to build positive relationships and learn about the professional world; and (3) provides the support students need to achieve their dreams. Eventually, with each student that Dream Jamaica helps, we hope to improve Jamaica.