Jamaican hero carries torch while helping others

Unsung heroes are everyday people we move among daily, and we overlook them easily because they are trying to elevate humanity without being elected to serve or be noticed. They dare to propel ideas and are courageous enough to ask others to see their visions as well. They are the ones who retaliate when injustice strikes or when elementary schools have terrible working conditions. Images of these situations may have struck the face of Karlene Samuel-Largie as a young girl in her native Jamaica, or she may have simply decided long ago to look at fate and know that she can help change destiny.

As a young girl growing up in Jamaica and attending the Immaculate Conception High School, Samuel-Largie found solace in participation. “I was involved in everything, I was the prefect for my class, house captain, active in every school clubs,” Mrs. Largie recalled. During those high school years she worked in the cultural arts also and reminisced travelling across Jamaica as well with her Aunt, Ms. Joyce Campbell, a founding member of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica. This experience helped exposed her to the arts and all cultural activities displayed and mounted for national events in Jamaica. Karlene knew then that mankind had the ability to be creative if they choose to.

Upon leaving Immaculate Conception High School Samuel-Largie had a short stint with teaching in a primary school in Jamaica. She later migrated to the United States, and years may have passed, but children’s lives and conditions remained on her mind. The time did not steal her zeal to participate or her wit to understand people’s needs and for more than 40 years since then, she continued to give and care for children in the United States as well as in Jamaica.

In her early years in America, Samuel-Largie worked at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Bank. That, however, did not distract her inbred ability in wanting to give her service for the development of humanity. She engaged herself in helping children in her immediate community in New York as well as those in her native Jamaica. She began participating in corporate reading programs for elementary schools in New York City. In the midst of this, she became the president of the Immaculate Conception High School, NY Chapter.

During her 15-year tenure as president of this organization, fundraising was at its peak. Samuel-Largie brought a specific vision to demonstrate and espouse the principles of collaboration. She realized that goals were attainable when people forge relationships. Her plans worked, as the group was able to join with other organizations and provided schools with educational supplies and also assisted several students financially through scholarships in the United States and Jamaica.

With the command to collaborate, to lead, performance driven and to gain results, Samuel-Largie was elected as president of the Union of Jamaica Alumni Association (UJAA). For six years she was the chief officer of the group, comprising mainly of highly skilled professionals. One area she focused on was initiating and establishing “task force groups” to address specific needs. She became involved in workshops, summits, and participating in advisory boards, community planning, and task force teams on education, the arts and fundraising drives to help build and support education in Jamaica and in the United States.

Her initiatives have spread to other groups of highly skilled professionals who have developed their methods of helping the underserved and underdeveloped through venturing into “task force groups.” She gives you her time, ideas and service instantly, if she believes it will work to make quality of life better for children and mankind in general. She is an excellent speaker and constantly makes situations more applicable to others for the “advancement of the human race.”

Samuel-Largie asks for no rewards from anyone, “just tolerance and respect for each other.” To the young people in society she asked that you, “seize the moment and take advantage of opportunities. Enjoy your lives at each stage because the time will never come back.”

She is also a past student of New York City Community College and Pace University and is the secretary and dance coach at the New York City – NAACP – Act So Program since 1995.

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