Poor living conditions

Is being poor a good excuse for failure? Success stories in T&T

What are the chances of success if you live in a poverty-stricken community? We hear people say that they failed at school, work or as parents mainly because they were poor and could never afford the opportunities that successful people were given.

Is being poor a viable reason for aggressive behaviour, a disrespectful attitude, bad grades, unemployment, or criminal actions? Some people say yes while others argue that success stories are proof that poverty is not an excuse for failure.

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Poor individuals versus the group ‘poor’

According to Bono, singer-songwriter and philanthropist, “Where you live should not determine whether you live or whether you die.” This is shown in the numerous success stories about people achieving their goals despite having poor conditions. But what have these people done differently that the majority of poor people are not doing?

Reporter Dylan Kerrigan (source) states, “People can come forward with their examples of individual success stories but it doesn’t change the fact that while some individuals break the cycle, the group ‘poor’ on the whole cannot break the cycle and capitalism is designed to function in that precise way.”

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How poor people become successful

The element of choice

One reason people disagree with the belief that being poor affects success is the element of choice. In criminology, rational choice theory adopts a utilitarian belief that humans are reasoning actors who weigh means and ends, costs and benefits, in order to make a rational choice. This method was designed by Cornish and Clarke to assist in thinking about situational crime prevention. (source)

Choosing the road less travelled

The road less travelled is an idiom that originated from the poem The Road Not Taken written by Robert Frost in 1920. The expression is used to describe the tough journey persons must experience in order to achieve goals that require a lot of effort, energy and patience from them.

The persons must act independently freeing themselves from the conformity of others who choose to take the road more often travelled (source). So, while some people say that their poor conditions caused them to fail in life, there are those who choose to take the road less taken.

Success stories of persons who were poor in T&T

Here are success stories of persons in Trinidad and Tobago who made a difference for themselves, families, communities, schools and country:

Dwight Yorke rises to a successful footballer

The wealthy footballer Dwight Yorke grew up in Canaan, Tobago in a small home with eight siblings. At age six, his passion for football developed with Bertille St Clair Coaching School. He states, “I had no shoes but my skills developed at the coaching school, playing on the beach and in the streets.” (source)

Yorke failed his secondary school exam but thanks to his football skills, he was offered a scholarship to attend Scarborough Secondary School. He played for the Trinidad & Tobago National team, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Sydney and Sunderland.

Camilita Nuttall came from dump to owning businesses

Camilita Nuttall grew up in Biche with 10 older siblings. Her mother was a homemaker and father was a labourer who struggled to send her to secondary school. She went through the garbage in the nearby dump looking for glass bottles to sell to buy school uniform and supplies to help out.

She studied hard enough to gain entry to law school and moved to the UK. She launched two businesses in network marketing, built a property portfolio and started her public speaking career (source). Nuttall is the CEO of the Event of Champions®, she is a self-made millionaire property investor, wealth and business coach, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur.

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The Stolen Cascadura is a novel by Beverley-Ann Scott about Eddy who passed his secondary school entrance exams for Queen’s Royal College despite living in Beetham Gardens known for crime, drugs, violence and poverty. Although fiction, Eddy represents numerous persons in Trinidad and Tobago in similar situations.

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Dianna Sophia Lopez changes school image

Dianna Sophia Lopez from Enterprise prepared for her A-Level exams at the Chaguanas North Secondary School in the midst of unruly and disrespectful behaviour by students who were planning a gun attack. The police got involved, the school made news headlines and got a bad reputation.

Despite residing in a community with gang warfare and dealing with drama at school, Lopez placed second in the Lucille S Antoine Leadership Scholarship and the school was credited for placing second in the RBC’s Judges Award for outstanding service to the community. “I took a gamble by writing an essay about myself and my leadership qualities. I was surprised when I found out that I was the recipient of a financial scholarship,” she said. (source)

Kervelle Cooper earns a national scholarship

Kevelle Cooper from Chaguanas was a teenager when she worked as a cashier in a supermarket after school to assist at home while she was in sixth form at St Augustine Girls’ High School.

“My family did not have a lot of money and still I never compared my journey to any of my peers. I knew my journey was different and I knew I had to work hard and find a way out to help my family, and this way out was through education. My mother is a strong praying woman and she would always say that things would get better one day.”

Kevelle obtained eight distinctions in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), and six distinctions and two ones in Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE). She was awarded an additional scholarship in business. (source)

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In closing

Some people choose to have a defeatist mindset believing that being poor is a curse that cannot be broken while others understand that choice and action are the main factors needed for change. As long as you understand that your situation can be different if you make the right move, then you would suddenly spot opportunities when they arise and do what you have to do with them. This is not as easy as it sounds and that is why it is called the road less travelled.

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