For much of Friday, Jafar Howe’s phone would not stop ringing, as scores of people reached out to pledge monetary support to get him to Princeton University.
“The calls haven’t stopped coming, I’ve gotten calls from some very distinguished individuals in the nation, I don’t want to call any names, some ministers,” he said, “It’s been overwhelming, I’ve actually been having trouble keeping track of all the numbers coming in,” said Howe on Friday.
The 19-year-old student from Laventille narrowly missed out on a national scholarship but applied to the Ivy League University after scoring 1540 in the SAT exam.
At the start of April, when Princeton responded, he was offered a US$400,000 partial scholarship, however, he still needed US$20,000 to secure accommodation when he begins classes at the prestigious New Jersey school.
On Thursday, Guardian Media highlighted that he still needed to raise that money and had returned to his alma mater St Mary’s College to sell popcorn and tutor students to raise funds.
Within moments of his story airing during CNC3’s newscast, calls kept coming to Howe, with many offering to cover the expense.
The GoFundMe page which he started to go along with his own fund-raising through popcorn sales and tutoring secondary school students rose from $2,000 to over $7,000 by yesterday evening.
The student, of Quarry Road, Laventille is hoping his story will help erode negative stereotypes associated with the area.
The teenager received news of Princeton’s acceptance at around the same time another teenager from Laventille with high aspirations, Akil Phillps was murdered.
Phillips, a 16-year-old student of St Anthony’s College was gunned down on April 5 while walking to his grandmother’s home.
“Stories like that makes it even worse, this story is supposed to be a really positive outlook on how we can affect the community, the youth and when stuff like that happens, it just kinda brings back down the name,” said Howe, who is keen on improving his community with his education.
He recognises that he isn’t the only outstanding student from the community and as such has said even if the donations push him over the US$20,000 target, he will redirect the money so that another student from Laventille can benefit.
Howe also hopes to return to Trinidad with what he learns in the United States, with an aim to improve the country.
“I plan to come back, I hope with that my degree of Engineering and Public Policy that I will be able to solve issues in the community,” said Howe, “I would love to give back to the community, I love it here. The worst part of getting into Princeton is that I have to leave Trinidad.”
Howe’s story also inspired Minister of Education Anthony Garcia concerning State funding for promising students.
“I have been having discussions with the Minister of Finance in terms of making allocations for persons like that who are in need of additional funding,” said Garcia on Friday.