Caribbean-centric scholarship awards two Kittitians

Rhonda Holmes, founder of the RR Holmes Scholarship for Organization for Caribbean Advancement (RRH SOCA), created her scholarship program to help Caribbean students and first-generation Caribbean-Americans with costs that come with higher education.
Eric Bern Studio

The annual RR Holmes Scholarship for Organization for Caribbean Advancement (RRH SOCA) awarded two Caribbean students with their 2017 scholarships. The two students, attending schools in New Jersey and Florida respectively, are both of Kitttian descent. The creator of the program, which started in 2012, wanted to provide scholarships to children from the Caribbean or of Caribbean heritage, with the support they need to advance in their educational needs due to lack of similar programs aiming at that.

“There are not a lot of scholarships that are geared to kids from the Caribbean, and with me having family from the Caribbean this is very near and dear to my heart and this is my way to give back to us,” said Rhonda Holmes.

As a child of immigrants from Barbados, Holmes said she always felt that students from the Caribbean, and even children of Caribbean immigrants, were in need of an extra push. To help bridge this gap, she created the scholarship as a way to assist.

The two students who are recipients of the award, Trevis Belle, a communications major at International University in Miami, and Jabari Trotman, who is pursuing double majors in psychology and economics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Both were awarded with one check for $1,500.

And it is not a grade-based scholarship. Holmes says by not making it based on grades, the scholarship is open to students who are in need of it the most.

“I didn’t want to make it grade-based because some of the best students don’t always get the best grades and that’s because they’re not getting much assistance outside of school,” she said. “I know the strides one can make in their education, and what it has made for me, so I want to help other students continue on their journey.”

The scholarship criteria consists of answering a few short questions and writing three short essays on subjects including leadership, influential people, and how the applicant’s educational pursuits can positively impact the Caribbean community locally and abroad, according to Holmes. And students do not even have to be living in the U.S. to apply, it is only required that they are or will attend a college or university in the United States.

Several requirements needed to be eligible are proof of Caribbean heritage — proven either by the applicant themselves with their birth certificate and passport, or that of their parents as proof they are of Caribbean heritage. Holmes said even though the amount of the scholarship cannot cover a full college education, it does however cover a decent fraction of additional costs that come with a college education and something that should be taken advantage of.

“It’s free money geared to them and there’s not a lot that is focused just for Caribbean people,” she said. “For me, when I was going through college, that money would’ve been useful for me to buy textbooks, a meal plan, or technology fees, and all the extra fees you don’t realize have to be paid on top of your tuition bill, so this is not a lot but it helps encourage them to keep going,” said Holmes.

Applications for the RRH SOCA 2018 Scholarship are now being accepted until Sept. 1 and students can apply online []. Standouts will be asked to be interviewed to be considered finalists and awarded the following year.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]
Scholarship awardee Trevis Belle is one of two recipients of the RRH SOCA 2017 Scholarship.
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