Editor’s note: The Proud of Them initiative recognises the positive achievements of people ages 10 to 25. Through a public nomination process, individuals are honoured in the categories of academics, careers, business, sports, culture or community service. Each person selected will be featured for six months at a time on billboards established across the Cayman Islands, and will also receive a certificate. It is hoped that this recognition programme will encourage young people to continue to strive for higher attainment, while inspiring others to do the same.
Twenty-five-year-old Latoya Francis knows what it takes to achieve excellence. Her name was regularly found on the honour rolls of schools that she attended. Here’s her story …
During her early academic years, Ms Francis relocated to Jamaica in 2002 where she attended Dunoon Technical High School, but this move did not impact her academic performance. In fifth form grade, she was elected head girl and valedictorian.
She went on to graduate top of her class with eight subject passes.
In January 2006, she returned to Grand Cayman and began working as a receptionist at DMS Management Ltd. Three months later, she was promoted to finance administrator while simultaneously earning an associate’s degree in business administration from the University College of the Cayman Islands.
In 2009, she began attending Anderson University in Indiana. She made the dean’s list for six consecutive semesters, which helped earn her a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a double major in youth leadership development and a minor in nonprofit leadership. She finished college with a 3.67 grade point average.
Yet Ms Francis is more than just book smart. She served as president of the International Student Association, a member of the University Leadership Committee, chaplain of Alacritas Social Service Club and was the proud recipient of the 2011-2012 AmeriCorps Service Award.
Her academic achievements have also propelled her to travel to several places including Kenya and Jamaica, where she initiated programmes such as the Machemo Empowerment Project and Shakespeare Empowerment Project. Both programmes seek to provide opportunities for personal, social and educational development for young people. She has also helped to build an orphanage in Dominican Republic and helped out at the Tumaini AIDS Prevention Program in Uganda.
Today, she is one of DMS’ senior finance administrators – having received three promotions during a five-year period. She is now seeking a degree in public policy and management, which she intends to use to build partnerships between governments and nonprofit organisations worldwide.
Knowing the power of education, Ms Francis is constantly looking for ways to help others. At the moment, she is drafting a proposal which will help her acquire money to start an after school programme at her church – Church of God Chapel in Frank Sound.
The programme will assist and guide young people to excel in becoming well-rounded citizens of the Cayman Islands. She is also on her to way to pursue a master’s degree in public affairs with a focus on international development at London School of Economics.
“At first, I thought they contacted the wrong person. However, I am very honoured to represent the calibre of young people that originate from our community,” she said.
Her advice to young people interested in following in her footsteps toward higher education and professional success is to work hard to pursue God given talents and dreams. “There will always be negativity and obstacles along the way but remember that only you can get in the way of reaching your goals,” she said.
Ms Francis demands greatness from herself and uses her skills and knowledge to empower and support those around her. She ascribes much of her success to God, as well as past school teachers and mentors.