Inner-city youth balances work & study, earns bursary
Odain Murray collects his University of the West Indies Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF) bursary cheque from Margarita Morris, administrator and data officer, UWIDEF.
Final year student of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Mona, and UWI Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF) bursary recipient Odain Murray stands as proof that Flanker — a tough inner-city community in St James — can produce good, educated and hard-working young people.
Murray — who has been on the Dean’s List for the last two years in the Faculty of Social Sciences and now holds a grade point average (GPA) of 3.31 — says while growing up he never gave in to the negative forces in his community, but instead used them as motivation for advancement.
“From seeing what was happening around me and not wanting what was happening around me in my life back then was what motivated me to work hard to get an education,” Murray, 27, told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
Murray aced the Grade Six Achievement Test and was placed at Cornwall College. He successfully completed high school and, in 2007, was accepted to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history at The UWI. He moved to Kingston, but the unpredictable happened — his father died suddenly and he had to put his tertiary pursuits on hold.
“After my father died, I started having some challenges, financially and otherwise, and I had to apply for a leave of absence from UWI in 2009. Then I started working in the performing arts industry,” Murray said.
While working, he realised that there was a huge demand for professionals to strategically market plays in Jamaica. So, he returned to The UWI in 2013 as a part-time student, this time pursuing marketing. UWIDEF has assisted him to continue his studies by awarding him a bursary of $100,000.
“I heard about the bursary while I was at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts. Then I went on the Student Services section on UWI’s website, applied for the UWIDEF Performing Arts Bursary, and I was successful. Being a recipient of this bursary is a good thing for me, especially for someone from the performing arts, because you hardly find this being offered in Jamaica,” Murray said.
“I chose marketing because I realised that the theatre needs proper management with regards to marketing. The new recreational activities most members of our society are drawn to involve parties and not theatre shows. I want to change this. That’s the reason I did not choose music or drama. I chose marketing to get the Jamaican theatre industry out there to a wider audience,” Murray explained.
For nearly two years, Murray has been working as a student assistant in the Marketing, Recruitment and Communications Office on campus, as well as in the performing arts industry.
When asked how he balances his work responsibilities and his school work, he said: “It is a major challenge, but I try to structure my time based on my timetable and when I don’t have rehearsal, I prioritise. I work when I don’t have classes. When it is that assignments are to be completed, I miss one or two rehearsals and try not to stay too late at work. That’s how I balance.”
Murray says he wants to become “a better human being” and when he graduates from The UWI in 2017, he has set his sights on a job with the Ministry of Culture or the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC).
He is particularly interested in the areas of policy and business development as it relates to the performing arts.
“The ministry can lobby for new policies and developmental strategies and JCDC has been around facilitating cultural retention for decades, and I could market aspects of our culture which needs promotion,” said Murray.
The young man believes in giving back. Already UWIDEF, his benefactor, has become a beneficiary of his generous spirit. In April, Murray assisted with arranging a benefit performance of Dahlia Harris’
Same Difference, which helped raise approximately $100,000 to provide meals for needy students at the university.