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AMONG THE THINGS a teacher and a student at a rural school in Barbados had in common was a dream to make something of their lives.
Eudine Barriteau was a young teacher at St George Secondary and Earl Phillips was a student in her classroom decades ago with high hopes of reaching the pinnacle of life’s ladder. But they soon parted ways, not to meet again for more than 25 years.
That was until recently when they greeted each other at a glitzy gala in Manhattan, the 20th annual awards function of the American Foundation of the University of the West Indies (AFUWI).
“You were one of my students,” Barriteau, now the Principal of the UWI’s Cave Hill campus, told Phillips, the secretary-treasurer of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, one of New York’s most influential labour organisations.
Barriteau, a product of Ellerslie Secondary School and a woman of humble beginnings but who through years of study at prominent universities in the Caribbean, New York and Washington and hard work, reached the heights of academia.
“It just goes to show what people can do and how Barbadians and other West Indians thrive in this competitive environment,” she said before Phillips received a Foundation Award for excellence in community service.
In addition to his duties as the number two elected officer in the hierarchy of the 40 000-member TWU affiliate which represents New York’s mass transit workers employed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Phillips, who was born and raised in St George, sits on the board of Trustees of the City’s Employees Retirement System which manages US$137 billion in assets.
“Dr Barriteau was an excellent teacher who inspired her students,” said Phillips. “That’s how I have always remembered her and I am proud of her as the Principal of the Cave Hill campus.”
Jade Bowen, a 20-year-old undergraduate student at Cave Hill, who is a recipient of a Kay Foster scholarship given by the Foundation, said it would help to attain his “dream” of entering “the field of logistics and supply chain management”.
Sir Hilary Beckles, UWI Vice Chancellor, said the UWI, “while Caribbean in its foundation, continues to move beyond” the region establishing links with China and the State University of New York.
Sir Hilary said Phillips and the other honorees “reflect the different and best aspects” of the UWI’s image and strategy.
Sir George Alleyne, the retiring University Chancellor and who like Sir Hilary was born in Barbados, also hailed the honorees, calling them “brilliant” contributors to their communities.
Bill Howard, president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association which organises the annual Caribbean Labour Day carnival in Brooklyn, announced he was establishing scholarships for Bajan and other West Indian students of Cave Hill in memory of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the US Congress. “Those of us involved in the scholarships programme at Cave Hill want young people from Christ Church to benefit from them,” said Howard, the main gatekeeper of the Chisholm legacy.
Barriteau embraced the idea.
“They are a very worthwhile undertaking and will help students reach their dreams,” said the principal.
The AFUWI and Howard have established the Shirley Chisholm Award which is being given in recognition of the work of outstanding contributors to society. The first recipient was US Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who now represents the Brooklyn District which first sent Chisholm to Capitol Hill in 1968.
Among this year’s honorees were Sesame Flyers, a leading social services organization in Brooklyn; Doug E, Fresh, a leading international hip hop icon who received the Bob Marley Award; Grammy winner Estelle; Dennis Hawthorne, a prominent businessman; Finn Partners, a leading public relations firm; and the Door restaurant in Queens.
Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent.