Features — 22 July 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

The Social Security Board (SSB) handed out scholarships to several students today as part of its annual scholarship program.

The ceremony was held at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel, and Communications Officer for SSB, Gayle Ozaeta, told us how the organization selected the most deserving students, who were chosen from 311 applications based on the criteria of academic performance and financial need.

She said, “Today we are awarding 55 scholarship recipients. These are students who have satisfied the criteria that we were looking for as we were preparing to offer these scholarships. Today marks our 13th Social Security Scholarship Awards ceremony, and we are looking at our scholarships as giving back to the Belizean students. We looked at their academic performances, we looked at their financial needs, we also looked at the way they crafted their application letter, and also their commitment to education. We had 15 sixth form scholarships that were awarded, 37 high school scholarships, and we had 3 from the technical and vocational studies section.”

After the ceremony, Amandala had the opportunity to meet Rudy Mendez, 21, and we were immediately moved by the touching account of how he managed to keep his head up in order to achieve his education in spite of harrowing adversities that he faced while growing up as an orphan.

Rudy Mendez

Rudy Mendez

Mendez attends Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico in Orange Walk, and he shared how his prayers were answered after he jumped on the opportunity to apply for the SSB scholarship this year.

He stated, “I started to seek help [to go to school], and I went to the SSB office and requested the information on how to get a scholarship because they [SSB] went to my school and I heard that they offer scholarships so I filled out the form and did what was required. I then submitted it and [later] I received a call to go in for an interview, so I went and [fortunately] I got it.”

Mendez was full of gratitude and thanked those who made it possible for him.

“Basically, this assists me very well because I am independent, living on my own – I don’t have any parents, so it is really a great help, and I also thank God for this help because without the help of the people from SSB that I am getting, I wouldn’t be able to reach the goals that I have set for the future,” he said.

He also works part-time for Orlando De La Fuente, a restaurateur from Orange Walk, and De La Fuente told us how he met Rudy and why this particular young man is worthy of being a scholarship recipient.

He mentioned, “I met him [Rudy] through a Peace Corps who was doing some work in Carmelita Village, and when he [the Peace Corps] left, he asked me to do some follow up work with Rudy, so eventually he [Rudy] became an employee, but I think he is one of the most worthy recipients of this scholarship. If you were to hear his story, it’s a bit sad because his mother committed suicide when he was 13, then his dad went to jail and he put himself through school. Right now he is 21. Most twenty-one year olds would have finished high school and sixth form already, but because he has to work and pay his own way through school, I think it took him the extra years, but I would like to thank the Belize Social Security Board for granting him this scholarship.”

In order to maintain the scholarship, the beneficiaries are required to keep a certain grade point average, as well as uphold good conduct.


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