By: Trischan Laing
“That’s for poor children,” I told my mom when she asked why I refused to buy the government’s nutrition supplement drink. I didn’t consider myself poor, in fact, I considered myself better than all the kids who depended on the free breakfast program. I always had clean clothes, healthy meals and my parents assisted me with my homework- up to a point.
In Jamaica, children ages 6-13 have the option of attending two types of schools. There are preparatory schools which are privately owned, they have smaller classrooms and are usually populated by children from the upper-middle class and upper-class families. Then there are primary schools which are government-funded, the classrooms are packed with no less than 45 children to one teacher and children from lower middle class and lower class families are in attendance. The fact that I attended the latter should have been some indication that I wasn’t as rich as I thought, but my 6-year-old brain could not comprehend that.
I started noticing the difference when I matriculated to high school. At my high school, there were kids from all walks of life. Some were lower class, while others were middle and upper class. I was exposed to a wider range of people whose families owned several homes, they had health insurance and went on family vacations. However, what was the biggest shocker to me, was that in my new circle of friends, I was one of the few whose parents did not have a university degree. This had not affected me before high school, but as my classes became more advanced my parents were able to offer less and less assistance.
“My parents supported whichever career path I chose but they could not offer me much guidance.”
Their support however was unwavering. I remember many nights, my mom sat with me while I finished my assignments. She brought me to my extra lessons and kept me awake all night until I solved my Calculus problems. When I arrived at school the next day, groggy and exhausted, to my surprise, my friends said their parents did their assignments for them. I did not experience such luxuries.
My parents supported whichever career path I chose but they could not offer me much guidance. They did not have any connections to get me into summer internships and I could not afford to go to the places where I could rub shoulders with the upper echelons of society. What they could impart to me, however, was that education is the vehicle to drive us out of poverty. And so with this mantra I worked hard, got into medical school and I’m currently in my final year.
Generational wealth is something that is not as prevalent in our Black community. Many of our schools are underfunded and we are constantly told to work hard and not smart. I am the first generation to learn about investing and multiple streams of income. I learn these things not only for myself but to also teach my parents as I am grateful for the things they taught me. It has not been easy but in June 2021, I will graduate as Dr. Trischan Laing, the first medical doctor and university graduate from my family and I feel overjoyed and grateful.