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Grace Lawrence

Our Founder & Executive Director

Grace Scholarship Fund is the brainchild of Founder and Executive Director, Rissa Lawrence.  A product of Jamaican parents, as a child Rissa and her cousins spent three months every summer in Kingston, Jamaica with her Grandaunt, Grace.  Grace would frequently take Rissa to work with her many days.  It was there, at Immaculate Conception High School that Rissa gained her strong appreciation of the Jamaican Education system.

In 2014, Rissa formed the Grace Scholarship Fund to help support Jamaican Youth attending colleges and universities on the island.  She understood the harsh reality that education is a substantial expense in Jamaica—which is often sacrificed to provide basic necessities such as food and to pay for utilities

Naturally, it was fitting to name the Fund after her grandaunt, who today at 94 years old continues to teach mathematics, biology and English to primary and high school students from her from her front porch (or ‘verandah’ as we say in Jamaica)--even amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic!

What started as a one-woman-show, with Rissa leading at the helm and funding all scholarships out of her pocket, is know an international effort with supporters around the globe. Since inception, the fund has awarded 50 scholarships to students hailing from across the island.  Awards have surpassed $4M. 

Grace Scholarship Fund is the first of its kind – “Its a vehicle that allows members of the Caribbean diaspora and general public to directly support Jamaican Youth that are in financial need.  100% of donations go directly towards scholarships.  I cover all the operating expenses so that money to students is maximized.  We accept donations of any size, from $5 and up!”, says Rissa.

Rissa, a corporate strategy professional, graduated from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) with an Engineering Degree and later received her Masters in Business Administration from The Harvard Business School (Cambridge, MA).  Rissa is also an adjunct professor at a leading college in the United States.

Grace Lawrence was born in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, to two teachers.  She started teaching at 17 at Lances Bay All Age School in Hanover but actually began her formal teacher training at Shorted Teachers College at age 21.  After graduation, she taught in Westmoreland, St. Mary and St. Andrew before leaving the island for higher studies at one of Canada’s most prestigious universities. 

On completion of her studies in Canada she returned to Jamaica and taught for 35 years at the Immaculate Conception High School.  Miss Lawrence has always been an active member of the community.  While teaching, she held a long and active record of civic participation.  Just a few examples:  she supervised sleep away camps, taught evening school at West Avenue Institute, supervised Sunday school, lead the Girl Guides Association and engaged in writing questions for the JSC examination. She studied Sign Language during her summer vacations and used her new found knowledge to help students at the Salvation Army School for the deaf in Kingston.

Ms. Lawrence has officially retired from Immaculate, but not from teaching.  She has not been content to sit back in a rocking chair. Instead she has continued to work tirelessly to help the community.   She learned to play the piano (successfully sat the exams) attended French & German classes and speaks the languages on an intermediate level. She taught at a private high school, Quality Academics High.  She conducts daily adult literacy, elementary and high school classes from her verandah school which she names, Hope Ridge Academy.  She directs special focus on the not so fortunate students.

Ms. Lawrence has received recognition from local TV stations where she was interviewed and lauded for stepping up to adopt, school and support  triplets who requested assistance during a talk show.  In 2014, she was honored nationally with a Butch Stewart Community Award in the field of education.  This award was created to honor unsung heroes who work every day to improve communities and Jamaica as a whole.

Grace Lawrence, at age 92 has selflessly devoted her entire adult life to the service of students and to the educational development of the Community. It would be remiss not to mention that Ms  Lawrence , fondly known among family and friends  as ‘auntie’ has been positively involved in her  family’s  lives .  She has raised many nieces, nephews, and housed and cared for  many of her friends children over the years.  It then is no wonder she has served as the major inspiration for this very needed, Grace Scholarship Fund that offers financial assistance for students who are continuing their tertiary education.  She has been and remains an asset to Jamaica.