Connecting Caribbean students to mentors

Jerelle Joseph has launched a mentoring scheme which aims to help Caribbean students up the career ladder.

Mentorship is a commitment to guiding someone by using the tools you have acquired from your own experience, successes and failures.

Jerelle Joseph

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has launched a mentorship programme for Caribbean students to give them the information and support they need to pursue their chosen careers.

Jerelle Joseph [2014] launched the non-profit organisation CariScholar last month. It aims to connect Caribbean students with appropriate academics and professionals who can give them guidance and advice.

Jerelle came up with the idea last February. “I could see that certain international students had benefited from very good guidance and had lined up where they wanted to go next. We do not have that support back home,” she says. “You may get lucky and come in contact with a great teacher who will take an interest in you, but there are certainly a lot of things I think I could have done differently if I had known better and I hope to be able to share this knowledge, especially with younger students.”

Jerelle, who is pursuing a PhD in Chemistry, only applied to Cambridge after being encouraged by Professor Sean McDowell, her supervisor at the University of the West Indies who had studied at the university. “He was advocating for Cambridge from day one and talked me through the application process,” she says.

Jerelle used her network to build a database of professionals and academics from the Caribbean who are interested in mentoring others. “If you have grown up in the Caribbean you are aware of the unique challenges students might face and the sort of funding that might be available. We were keen to target people who had had some experience of the Caribbean education system, as well as a deep-rooted connection to the region,” says Jerelle.

The database also contains a list of students who are looking for mentors. Jerelle finds them via targeted marketing on social media. Most are secondary school/college students in the Caribbean. They are required to submit a personal statement about what they are looking for in a mentor.

The matching process is meticulous. Jerelle, who works alongside her husband, Vishi Singh, is keen to ensure that each match works. So far she has matched 20 students via email.

Current mentors include Verieux Mourillon from Dominica, who is an expert in leadership development and who encouraged Jerelle to apply to university when she was at college, Alberta William-Henry from St. Lucia who is a chemistry lecturer and photographer, Stephie Pascal from the Dominica who is a Cambridge graduate currently employed as a Process Engineer and Safraz Hussain from Barbados, who is Regional Legal Counsel and Corporate Secretary of CIBC First Caribbean International Bank Limited.

Jerelle says: “Mentorship is a commitment to guiding someone by using the tools you have acquired from your own experience, successes and failures. The Caribbean has a number of accomplished persons – whether they have excelled in academics, business, sporting, entertainment. CariScholar presents a great opportunity for these people to mentor the next generation.”