By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
All of the money Timiesha Knowles made and diligently savedfrom workingmultiple jobs just so she could fund her tertiary education has been sacrificed to keep her mother and family afloat, who were devastated by Hurricane Dorian and have now been left facing financial strains due the COVID-19 pandemic.
Timiesha has been pursuing higher education to “escape her background” to some extent – a family background that included gang involvement, teenage pregnancies and general hardship.
The young Bahamian woman has a passion for educational reform and hopes that through her studies she can bring change by way of the creative arts. So far, she has completed a tertiary programme as a Music major with a focus on vocal performance at Taylor University Indiana,
However, inadequate funding is the major obstacle in Timiesha’s way. She hopes to complete a dual Master of Arts degree in Adult and Community Education and Executive Development and Public Service at Ball State University.
“During my undergraduate years I have always kept a keen eye towards graduate school and, eventually, a PhD. I have worked hard to make this a possibility, however, due to the impact of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 in the Bahamas, my family has experienced great loss in both family members and way of life. My mother has been a waitress and school janitress for the past 30 years. However, due to the impact of both these national disasters she has been unemployed since December of 2019. This has resulted in me sending my savings toward graduate and my undergrad (studies) back home to provide for my family. I know I have the determination to excel in any stimulating and challenging environment, but I just now need the resources to pursue my goals,” she told Tribune Woman.
Timiesha is graciously asking the general public to assist her in any which way they can to help fund her education. She has begun her application process for the programme at Ball State University.
“While I ultimately desire to use music and the arts to encourage, educate and uplift my community, I believe I need to gain credentials that will allow me to work within the Bahamian governmental system. Our educational grade average is a D+ and often times the older generations are deemed ‘unhelpable’. I believe, however, that in order to create permanent change and improvement for the youth, there has to be an internal shift, starting with the older generation. By majoring in Adult and Community Education I hope to effectively learn how to bridge the learning gap between the various age groups through close examination of various teaching philosophies, studies, and environments,” she said.
Having reached this stage in her education and if her life has been somewhat of a miracle, given her family’s circumstances, Timiesha said.
“One of the proudest moments of my life was being accepted into Taylor University, despite the fact that my family's history was leading me down an entirely different path, beginning with my brother's gang involvement at the age of 13,” she said.
“From what I can remember my family has always been, and still remains, a part of the ‘working poor’ in the Bahamas. By the age of 15 or 16 it was normal for the women of my family to have at least one or two children. If this was not the case, they were either working, packing bags at the grocery store, standing all day braiding hair, being a busboy at Atlantis, or working in a bar.
“There was nothing like watching my mother barely sleep from working two jobs to show me that I needed to make a change. And there is nothing like watching my brothers fall victim to crime and jail to show me that fast money was not the right way to accomplish this,” she said.
And at the age of 14, Timiesha said she was forced to grow up quickly, realising that the only way she would be able to live a different life than that of her relatives was to to do something no one in her family has ever done.
“I had to find Christ and finish school. My late aunt and grandmother guided me after I proved to them that I really wanted to make a permanent change. However, finding a new path was extremely difficult due to the family legacy that preceded me. No one expected me to go to church or do well in school, but even though the odds were against me, my aunt and grandmother relentlessly encouraged me by saying, ‘You may not see it now, or even soon, but God has a purpose for you and when you open your mouth others will listen.… Miesh, you are not what happened to you but who you choose to become.’ To this day this is my mantra,” she said.
Then Timiesha’s love for music began to develop after regularly attending church. She was exposed to the creative arts and from that moment it was ingrained in her.
In the Spring of 2017, Timiesha was awarded the Bahamas Ministry of Education Public School Scholars scholarship, which provides a college education for students who overcome their hardships and achieve academic success without the need of student loans. After looking at 58 colleges in the US and Canada there was no doubt in her mind that Taylor University was the college she should attend, mainly due to its Christ-centered environment and liberal arts driven curriculum.
Over the summer of 2017, she worked three jobs in order to pay for her student visa and ticket to get to school.
“Yet, once I arrived, I was faced with another misfortune. While I had always relied on the physical and emotional support of my aunt, during my freshman year she got sick and had to be hospitalised. The expenses associated resulted in the loss of my yearly room and board funds ($5,000). However, if there was anything that my mother taught me it was that with a diligent work ethic anything is possible. I decided to persevere by balancing a heavy schedule alongside two jobs on campus and then again over the summer in order to pay for these expenses. I have managed to balance this schedule successfully for the past three years.”
In spite of her many challenges, Timiesha has excelled at Taylor University, having served on the executive cabinet of the school’s Office of Intercultural Programmes, as a member of the Multi-Ethnic Student Association, as director of gospel choir, and as a graphic designer and artist for many campus events. Additionally, she has been a four-year member of the Taylor University Chorale as well as a three-year member of the Taylor Sounds Chamber Choir.
“I served as the toast master for both ensembles and this year was elected by my fellow members as an officer of the chorale. In this role I receive hands-on experience with selecting pieces, staging/ planning events and concerts with the director of the ensembles, Dr Reed Spencer. Through the participation in these various leadership roles, I was able to discover and develop skills to further my progress as musician and team player. Due to these opportunities my desire to improve and uplift the arts and the quality of education has only heightened,” she said.
To assist Timiesha in her educational endeavours, contact (469) 289-7006 or Timiesha_Knowles@tayloruniversity.edu.