Wheelchair user stands tall to collect family’s first tertiary degree
A kick to the spine was all it took to distort Sashagaye Thompson's life, leaving her with an injury to the lower back and damage to her pelvis, at just age nine.
Now, some 17 years later, the Spanish Town, St Catherine, native, who has had to use wheelchair because of that unfortunate incident, beams with pride at being conferred with a Bachelor's of Business Education degree from the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech).
"This is a major accomplishment in my life. I am setting the standard to show able-bodied persons who think people with disabilities cannot manage, that we can get the work done," Thompson said proudly.
The 26-year-old said that she had a normal childhood growing up in a single parent household headed by her mother, who was a vendor in the Old Capital. She noted that she was not a sickly child and only had asthma attacks occasionally. However, she led an otherwise healthy and active life as she had an affinity for track and field while she was a student at the St Catherine Primary School.
"Back in 2007, I was injured by another student, which changed my life," she said. Thompson related that the accident happened while she was heading to class.
"Well I was running to my class. I just felt when someone kicked me. I tried to hold on to the person, but a weakness was in my arms," said Thompson, who added that other children who were running accidentally stepped on her as well.
"Well the doctors didn't really say much to my mother, I am guessing they didn't want to scare her. I didn't really have a reaction until later in life when reality hit me," she recalled, adding that for two years, she was in and out of the hospital, as doctors worked assiduously to correct the injury.
But as she transitioned into secondary studies at the St Catherine High School, the grim reality that she would not walk again became clear.
"I struggled accepting the fact that I had to live my life with a disability. I could no longer do the things I enjoyed doing the most. I was now left behind, I was classified as 'different', I was not coping well," Thompson told THE STAR.
Although her transition into high school was a daunting experience, Thompson's fighting spirit did not go dim. Further, administrators at the St John's Road institution constructed ramps to ensure that she was not left behind.
Fuelled by her innate desire to achieve and to make her mother proud, Thompson applied to UTech in 2018. Her degree was financed by the Student's Loan Bureau and some five years later, Thompson said she is the first in her family to achieve a tertiary education.
"I decided I wanted to attend university because I want to become the best version of myself; I would like to be a major asset in my country. I had no special advantage, I had to work for my grade like any other student. I was committed to completing my degree because of the struggles my family faced while growing up. I had to make my mother proud," she told the news team.