By: Kiana Wilburg
Before she was even a teen, Latoya Andrea Roberts always knew that whatever career path she was going to take, it must lead her to achieving a most profound life goal—making a difference in the world.
However, coming from a poor background, the realization of this dream seemed in her younger days, a mere illusion.
With much perseverance and an unquestionable faith in the Supreme Being, Roberts today stands overjoyed as she recently emerged as the top graduating Guyanese law student from the Hugh Wooding Law School.
The 29-year-old admits that while law is an enormous undertaking, given the commitment needed, there is no other job she would rather do. For her, it is a blessing to be able to embrace such an extraordinary calling.
In her interview with this publication, Roberts spoke candidly about her journey to “living the dream” in her homeland.
Roberts grew up with her mother, Myrtle Peters, in Vreed-en-Rust, West Bank Demerara.
She shared that her mother was a single parent who did mostly farming and basket weaving to support three children.
“I was a country girl. And life in my village was very different to what took place in town. I helped my mother a lot with farming, the funds from which she used to take care of me, my brother and my sister. In that village, I attended Sandhills Nursery and Sandhills Primary School. I remember that most times, we went to school barefoot and held our books in our hand or in a plastic bag. We used a boat for most of our travels. But regardless of the struggles, my mother always insisted that an education is the key to improving our future. She wanted us to have a better life than she did. She pushed us and I am grateful for that,” expressed Roberts.
With the support and blessings of her mother, Roberts said that she was sent to live in the city with her relatives to further her education.
When she came to Georgetown, she wrote the Common Entrance Examinations and obtained a place at North Georgetown Secondary School. But Roberts was heartbroken by the results. She had her sights set on President’s College.
The determined young woman said, “I really wanted President’s college. My sister went there before me and so I was disappointed when I did not make it there. However, I made the best of it. During my school years there, I had a serious interest in business related subjects. And in 2004, I graduated as the best graduating student from North Georgetown Secondary with nine subjects.”
FOR THE LOVE OF LAW
It just so happened that Roberts was able to fulfill one of her childhood dreams as she became a sixth form student at President’s College.
“I was happy about being able to attend President’s College and it was a fulfilling experience…So after CXC, I was not too sure as to what subject I would choose to lead my career path. I thought perhaps business would be great but I still was not that sure about it. Eventually, I spoke with my mentor, Derill Gittens and based on his knowledge of the type of person I am, he suggested that I do law,” Roberts expressed.
She added, “I really am grateful for Mr. Gittens’ role in my life. You can say he was like a father to me. At age 14, I became a Seventh Day Adventist and I was very active in the youth clubs which he led most times. He took a keen interest in me and was a mentor for me. Based on his advice, I decided to give law a try.”
Roberts recalled that her law tutor at President’s College was Mr. Yohance Cave.
Cave at the time, was also serving as a magistrate.
The 29-year-old said that it was Cave’s encouraging lessons which sparked a love for the law. She said that under his tutelage, it was evident that law was the path she was going to take to make the difference she always dreamed of.
Roberts said, “I always had childhood dreams of ensuring that I make a difference in the world; that a day would come when I would be able to do better for my family. And it became clear that law was the answer…like doctors, lawyers have the ability to shape lives, to change lives, to save lives. They bring life to society through various procedures which they use to secure justice.”
The ambitious belle also turned out to be the best graduating student for President’s College at the sixth form level. The next step was the University of Guyana. There, Roberts pursued and successfully completed her Bachelors of Law Degree.
“By that time, my mom secured a portion of land in ‘B’ Field Sophia and moved to Georgetown. I moved in with her. I had even reconnected with my father, Howard Roberts, while at the University of Guyana which I was happy about… The next phase in my studies was supposed to be Hugh Wooding Law School but it did not turn out that way,” Roberts shared.
Lacking the necessary finances to further her studies, the 29-year-old was forced to place her dreams of becoming a lawyer on pause, but not for too long.
She disclosed that she took a job as a programme coordinator at the Business School and saved her earnings from that job for her legal studies. Roberts said that she also approached some members of her church who were kind enough to assist as much as they could financially.
With some amount of cash stored up, Roberts decided to write the entrance exams in August 2014, to secure a place at the Hugh Wooding Law School. This exam was necessary since she had stayed away from studies for some time.
However, when the results returned, Roberts was told that she did not make it.
She was devastated by the news. But being a faithful believer in the Supreme Being, she resorted to prayers and for several days at that.
As fate would have it, Roberts received a letter from Hugh Wooding Law School in September 2014 informing her that they had a place for her. She eagerly accepted. But there was only one tiny problem. Roberts only had enough funds to cover her fees and other expenses for the first half of the year.
LEAP OF FAITH
Who would leave their native soil to venture into another man’s territory for studies with only enough dinero to cover the first half of the study term?
Well, the fearless Roberts is one such person.
She confidently told Kaieteur News, “I was worried at first. But as a Seventh Day Adventist, I was taught that God is faithful. So I said to myself that if God took me that far and gave me this opportunity then it was up to him to find the way to help me with my finances. I kid you not, I even prayed to him and I said ‘You made it happen; now you have to make the way for me.”
Unexpectedly, Roberts said that her father, a Lands Surveyor, made contact with her and informed her that he is going to take care of all of her expenses.
The industrious lass said, “That in itself was a testimony to me of how good God is. My father took care of everything for me; rent, my food bill and school fees even when it was raised. All these circumstances make me feel every day that I am living my dream story. I have gone from being a ‘farmer girl’ of the country side with big dreams to a woman who will be a lawyer in just a few days.”
At the moment, Roberts has found a home at the Forde, Amsterdam and Lewis Law Firm. She said that under the guidance of seasoned Attorney-at-Law, Lyndon Amsterdam, she has learnt a lot about the law and what it really entails when being practiced. She deemed him to be another one of her mentors and an exceptional teacher.
The 29-year-old said that she anxiously awaits the coming of October 18 as she is expected to be admitted to the bar. Her parents will be there to share in the glorious moment, and Roberts could not be more ecstatic about it.
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