T&T nurses honor two nursing students at gala

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From left : Sherise Warner-Rollock receives scholarship award for Shania Antoine-Gill, TTNAA President Thecla Williams, Dr. Patricia McLean, and Meika Sarzano received scholarship award for Kerissa Jennil Thomas.
Photo by Nelson A. King

After a two-year hiatus, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brooklyn-based Trinidad and Tobago Nurses Association of America, Inc. on Sunday hosted a gala Christmas Luncheon & Scholarship Grant Award Ceremony at Antun’s Catering House on Springfield Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, honoring two nursing students.

“A very warm welcome to everyone on behalf of the Trinidad and Tobago Nurses Association of America Inc. (TTNAA) to their Christmas Luncheon and 32nd Scholarship Grant Award Ceremony,” said President Thecla Williams in her introductory remarks after an ice breaker in which one section of patrons sang to “Long Time Na See Yo, Gee Me a Wine Down,” and another section responded with “Hello, Hello, Hello,” struck up by Trinidadian DJ Clarence Allen.

“I am delighted to be here in person considering the trials of the last two years,” Williams added. “Absent makes the heart grow fonder, as frontline workers, families and friends in the room — everyone has been touched personally and professionally by this pandemic.

“As the current president, it gives me great satisfaction in seeing some of our longtime supporters, and I am very happy knowing that we did survive those dreaded two years.,” she continued, stating that the association was delighted in hosting the Luncheon and Scholarship Ceremony, despite the challenges.”

Williams said the annual scholarship has supported many nursing students in their last semester in their respective nursing programs, so they can in continue their education “stress free.”

In addition, she said that her group mentors nursing students, enabling them to better transition to “practice and beyond.”

“This year we have two intelligent, goal-oriented students, who were selected by the Educational Committee,” said Williams, identifying them as Kerissa Jennil Thomas and Shania Antoine-Gill. “The association looks forward to continuing with the scholarship program.”

Thomas and Antoine-Gill, who were not present at the ceremony, received the Phyllis Mills and TTNAA scholarship award, respectively.

Williams congratulated the scholarship awardees, and extended a hearty “thank you” to the dignitaries, elected officials, supporters, family and friends for their continued support.

“Without you, there would be no us,” she said. “Remember, we all are in this together. Together we aspire, together we achieve.”

The TTNAA president said community health services and education remain “an indispensable function” of the association, disclosing that, this year, the group donated laptops to “worthy students” in Trinidad and Tobago, “so that they can continue their education in a virtual environment.”

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said TTNAA was unable to partake in any health fair but continued to educate the community in its monthly meetings via Zoom.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of TTNAA for their gracious support of me in this new role,” she said. “A special thanks to the Social and Educational Committees, who have come forward with persistence to make this gala a success.

“Allow me to thank Mrs. Maudlyn George, who repeatedly took on the role of assisted secretary for another term,” she added.

Scholarship awardee Thomas said her mother, as a single parent, “did everything possible to ensure I was cared for, never went without, and that I experienced all that life has to offer.”

Similar to Dr. Patricia Mc Lean, chairperson of TTNAA’s Education Committee, Thomas said, in her message in the program, that she was born to a Trinidadian mother, and was raised there until she was 16, when she and her mother migrated to the US.

“My mom continues to be a pillar in instilling the importance of education,” Thomas said. “She sacrificed so much for me to be where I am at today.

“As a first-generation college graduate in my family, I pride myself in knowing that I am creating opportunities and leaving footprints for my children and others to follow,” she added. “My pursuit of this degree (nursing) would have happened sooner had my financial situation been better.”

TTNAA President Thecla Williams addresses the gala ceremony at Antun’s Catering House on Springfield Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. Photo by Nelson A. King

But, despite many challenges, Thomas said she continued to “preserve my goals.

“I always envision myself going to college and ultimately practicing in the medical field,” she said. “The only way I know to repay and continue to make my mother proud is to continue reaching for the stars and being the best student and nurse.”

Antoine-Gill, the other scholarship awardee, also said in a statement that she was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.

She said that, after completing high school and spending some time thinking about what she wanted to do with her life, she “journeyed on the path to becoming a nurse.”

Antoine-Gill said she is currently a nursing student at the University of St. Thomas-Houston (UST), scheduled to graduate in May 2022.

“I love to volunteer and participate in many extracurricular activities on and off-campus, based on both academic achievements and community service,” she said. “I trust that my willingness to serve and my ability to care for others will be an asset to myself and those in the

field of nursing.

“I am excited to be on this journey and to see what the future holds for me,” Antoine-Gill added.

Speaking on behalf of André Laveau, Consul General of Trinidad and Tobago to New York, Mary A. Tang Yew, consul administration, who has just arrived in the Big Apple, said that events, such as Sunday’s gala, were “the best place to begin getting to know you, our nationals in the Diaspora.

“I am already relishing the opportunity to learn about what you are doing for your people and in the communities you touch – yours being a collection of people in the world’s most challenging profession right now,” she said. “I am getting a chance to witness the character that it takes, at this time. But, then again, this is what you are noted for.”

Yew noted that TNNA’s “labour of love” began in 1968, resulting in the success of hundreds of registered nurses (RNs) benefitting from scholarships and mentorship.

“Through the sheer grit and determination of your futuristic thinking RNs, your organization has evolved into a high functioning and developmentally sustainable element within the community of New York, and continues to enhance the livelihood of the Trinidad and Tobago Diaspora,” she said, recalling that the Consulate General, New York, recognized TTNAA, in 2014, with an award for its contribution to education and health.

“Indeed, despite the current turbulent times of losing key members of the RN front-line fraternity to the corona virus, you are able to ensure that you remain a citadel of kindness and compassion,” Yew added. “I encourage you to continue to selflessly uplift your communities through the award of scholarships to deserving students, with Caribbean roots, proving, indeed, that “Together we aspire, together we achieve.”

Prior to DJ Clarence jamming soca, reggae and other vibes, patrons were entertained over cocktails by Trinidadian pannist, Anthony Trebult.

A moment of silence was also observed for those who “newly-departed,” including COVID-19 victims.

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