Career & Education

Dane Warren: Triumph in the face of adversity

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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He's the face behind the 2018 fourth place Old Harbour High School Challenge Quiz team — 23-year-old coach Dane Warren.

Like his charges, he was once part of the quiz team, but while he appeared bright-eyed and bushy tailed for the camera, Warren was silently hurdling a life of continued struggles.

After losing his father to a targeted murder at age two, his mother, who was a cashier at the time, had to now provide for him psychologically, emotionally and financially. The Old Harbour native, from Bannister District to be exact, attended Old Harbour High School for seven years, an experience he described as slow out of the blocks but accelerating to the finish line.

From being ranked among the lowest performing students in grades seven and eight, Warren finished among the top academic achievers, acing nine Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects and eight Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination units while representing the school on TVJ's School Challenge Quiz for four seasons (2011-2014), serving as 1st Deputy Head Boy, Student Council president, project manager in charge of student projects for the prefect body, junior councillor for the St Catherine Parish Council, president of the Energy Conservation Club, and a member of the Cadet Corps.

After his success at high school, Dane was ready for the next phase of his education so he applied and got accepted to the University of the West Indies (The UWI), Mona to read for a degree in chemistry. But with his mother's meager cashier salary, there was no way to fund his tertiary education than through the Students' Loan Bureau. However, when it was time to lock in his guarantors, there was no one willing to accept the responsibility. His application was left incomplete and unsubmitted.

But Warren decided he was still going to attend UWI and that he did, matriculating in September 2014.

“I still wanted to come and my mother was saying to me, 'That's crazy', because she didn't have any money for me to even take a bus to school, much less pay school fee,” he recalls.

“I wasn't even ready for school. I came to school in the second week and went into some class where I didn't even know what was happening,” he adds.

The chemistry programme required him to have lab books, lab coat, lab manual and goggles, of which he had none. Having missed orientation, and already feeling lost, he decided to seek academic advice from the Faculty of Science & Technology.

“I remember I got a package. I didn't have any money to pay for it, but somebody paid for it for me after I was enquiring about it but couldn't pay for it and that's where I met Mrs Miriam Lindo, administrative officer in the Faculty of Science & Technology,” he said.

That meeting would serve so many purposes on his university journey. Lindo, in a conversation with Warren, would later reveal that she is an Old Harbour High alumna and was the first Head Girl in the school's history.

“Meeting Mrs Lindo I think that was the best thing that happened to me,” Warren exclaimed.

Still, it wasn't smooth sailing.

“I had to wake up early in the mornings to catch one of my mentors who lectures at UTech (University of Technology, Jamaica). He normally tries to beat the early morning traffic, so I had to wake up early, from about 3:00 am or 4:00 am to get into the town (Old Harbour) to meet him to leave at 5:00 am,” Warren explained.

The arrangement soon became difficult as his lecturer would leave Kingston and head back to Spanish Town after his early morning lectures, meaning Warren was on his own for the return journey.

“I had to take the bus back home. I had to walk to UTech from UWI and the bus came at 9:00 pm. When I reach home it's almost 12:00 am. So I had close to three hours' sleep. When I reach class the next day, I'm tired,” he explained.

Then, when his lecturer started to teach in the afternoons, he had to find a way to get to and from school. His solution? Staying on the dorms illegally. His friend, a Chancellorite from Glenmuir High School with whom he had done Schools' Challenge Quiz, allowed him to 'kotch' with him.

“I had to take out the cushions from the chair that they got, put them together and that was my bed for almost a semester. Sometimes I couldn't go on the hall when they had their block activities, I had to go to the library and sleep. I had to put the chairs together and sleep on them and I had to use the curtains from the library to cover up as the sheet and that continued for the first semester,” Warren revealed.

The series of events would lead to him failing three of the five courses he sat that semester and being placed on academic warning. To make matters worse, he returned the following semester with more baggage than ever to deal with, having owed tuition from the previous semester. At this point, he was deregistered, but he was still going to classes. He had no access to online lecture slides, assignments or notes.

Later that semester, a friend he met at university allowed him to use his password so that he could access the material, but there were some courses which he was unable to see since his friend didn't do those courses. And all this while he was trying to make up for the courses he had failed in semester one.

Warren recalls how he got financial clearance to register for a course one hour before the in-course exam.

The university policy which requires students to scan the barcode on their IDs to check their financial status before sitting an exam would mean he would have been barred upon entry. Grasping for straws, he went to the administration office seeking help on how he could be allowed to sit the exams. He was advised to get commitment letters from his mentors and other individuals who would agree to pay his debt to the university in order for him to sit the exam.

His saving grace would come the weekend prior to his exam when members of the People's National Party Youth Organisation, of which he was a member, offered to help.

“The exam was at 1 o'clock. This course that I was doing for the first time, I knew nothing about it and I was only able to register and view the course one hour before the exam. I actually just got some lecture notes from somebody and just read it,” Warren said.

By the end of the semester, he had successfully passed all his courses, but was still in arrears, having to make arrangements yet again to pay in order to sit his final exams. With fees still owing from the previous semester, Warren was again unable to register for any semester three course.

“I started going to labs, but I wasn't sure if I was even going to get to do the courses,” Dane said.

The money from the PNPYO and Member of Parliament Noel Arscott allowed him to register for six courses, but by the end of that semester, he had failed two of them and was back on academic warning.

“They were very difficult because they were advanced courses and considering that I couldn't get access to lecture notes, and missed some of the in-course exams, I ended up failing,” he said.

At the end of the second year, he figured he had to find a way to be able to afford to the do the two courses he had failed, and visited the Faculty of Science and Technology where Mrs Lindo informed him that if he could find a lecturer to work with then he could be employed to the faculty as a research assistant. The first lecturer he approached informed him that based on the B- he got for the course, he wouldn't be able to work with him. But overcoming obstacles was almost second nature for Warren at this point, so he went in search of another.

“I remember I was searching on Facebook for her (Dr Andrea Goldson-Barnaby). I just felt that she was a lecturer I could talk with. I told her I wanted to work with her and she said that sounds good because I want to do some research and I started,” Warren explained.

He explained that as a student he had a lot of catching up to do, but Dr Goldson-Barnaby was very patient.

“Even though the previous lecturer had turned me down I realised that this was the opportunity that God was looking out for me for,” the young man said.

That job allowed him to buy food, shoes and almost everything that he needed, Warren disclosed. He was even able to move onto the ABC Hall and started to pay off some of his debt.

“I bought a laptop. For the first time I was able to get a laptop for myself through the employment from the faculty and from working with Dr Goldson-Barnaby,” he shared.

A highlight of his work with Dr Goldson-Barnaby was having his name as correspondent/co-author of a paper that got published.

“I didn't even know it was that big of a thing until I went to class and the lecturer spoke to students about it. Even those who saw me as a slow one. I got a little motivation from it,” said Warren.

He never saw an academic warning on his transcript again, and he got another opportunity to work with Dr Goldson-Barnaby. They did another paper that was accepted and published. He was an undergraduate student with two journal entries and had traveled to Mexico as part of the American Chemical Society.

At the end of the third year, Warren had passed all degree courses, with the exception of two.

“I decided to work and come back and do them,” he said.

To date, he has completed one of the two courses left to graduate. He currently teaches the sciences at Old Harbour High School, works as a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Science & Technology with first-year students, and coaches the Old Harbour and Innswood high schools quiz teams.




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