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Tribute to special daughter

FAMILY MATTERS: Tony Sealey and Ashleigh shortly before she died

THE FIRST recipients of a memorial scholarship fund set up to provide assistance to outstanding students in their quest for excellence were unveiled recently.

At the inaugural awards ceremony seven deserving students were chosen to receive educational bursaries in memory of Ashleigh Sealy.

Ashleigh Sealey’s life came to a tragic end at the age of 23 in April 2010 after developing complications from juvenile arthritis, a painful condition she had battled with since childhood.

“Always begin with the end in mind” – was a favourite saying from the very special young woman whose memory now lives on in a new trust dedicated to inspiring, encouraging and supporting young people to realise their true potential.

A trainee solicitor with leading Birmingham firm McGrath & Co, Ashleigh had refused to let the debilitating illness defeat her dreams and had carried on working until the day before she died.

Ashleigh’s father - well known Birmingham businessman Tony Sealey OBE – explained the struggles of the family in coping with his daughter’s death five years later.

“When something tragic and catastrophic like this happens in your life you can hide away and die or live the best way you can and remember the person who gave you such joy despite her life being cut so short,” Barbados-born Tony told guests at the Ashleigh Merelle Sealey Memorial Trust dinner held at The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

“All we want to do is to try to support young people in our community who are at college or university to help them live the best life possible by supporting their education.

“This is literally a family charity – it’s just us and we have no great ambitions to become an international charity. We just want to help a small number of our young people every year to realise their true potential.

PASSPORT

He stressed that “as we all know education, education, education is their passport for life and we want to do our little bit to help them do all they can to achieve this.

“One of Ashleigh’s sayings was ‘always begin with the end in mind’ – that personified Ashleigh because she was always looking to the future despite her condition. She was a wise young lady who knew she wanted to be a lawyer right from doing her GCSEs. We didn’t push her – she was always focused.”

The successful students will receive educational bursaries in the form of books and helpful equipment such as laptops, rather than cash.


MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: from left – Khari Douglas, Lerato Tsiga, Ophelia-Veronica Mae Charles, Shanice Mears, Tony Sealey, Melisha Hepburn, Kandace Saunders and Shanell Parker

The second aim of the trust is to highlight juvenile arthritis as a disease and enhance awareness of the painful condition and the challenges it presents.

The event was attended by Alphea Wiggins, the UK’s deputy high commissioner for Barbados, who stressed that education was the plank that had helped Barbados to move up in the world.

She told young people at the event to “grab educational opportunities with both hands to make sure you can become that person you want to be”.

Madame Justice Sandra Mason, a Court of Appeal judge in Barbados, and Euclid Goodman, minister counsellor for the Barbados High Commission, were also present.

Several of the winners of the first educational bursaries are already involved in mentoring young people.

Shanice Mears, who has a BA in dance and performance and Melisha Hepburn, who has a degree in youth studies, both work with young people.

Other winners were talented guitarist Khari Douglas, who has a BA in economics; Ophelia-Veronica Mae Charles, who has a BA in acting; Shanell Parker, who has a BA in law and criminology who hopes to work within the Criminal Justice System; Lerato Tsiga, who has an HND in dance, and Kandace Saunders, a graduate in image making and styling, who has overcome the challenge of losing her sight in one eye following a serious car accident.

Guests helped to raise more than £4,000 in a sports-themed auction where items included a Galaxy LA football shirt signed by players like David Beckham; a hospitality box at the next Aston Villa game with West Brom, and a signed Wolverhampton Wanderers football shirt.

The event was hosted by popular radio presenter G Man and included a fashion show staged by Ashleigh’s friends, with performances from Tru Street Dance and songs from Jordan Jones and his sister Ophelia.

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