The AJ Foundation’s first recipient graduated online from the University of the Western Cape.
Simanathia Hendricks, 21, from Tafelsig graduated with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in ethics and history. She is currently studying for an LLB, a degree in law at UWC, she told the Plainsman on Friday July 9.
The AJ Foundation is a registered, non-profit company that focuses on youth development and community upliftment.
Simanathia graduated on Monday May 3.
But as she watched her name come up on the screen, she said, she felt a pang of sadness that she couldn’t experience going up on to the stage to get her degree.
“I was busy with an assignment that day when my name came up on the screen. Three years of studying, and you would want to experience walking down the aisle in your graduation gown and see your family in their seats,” she said.
However, she added: “I was still happy that I graduated on that day and I am proud of completing my undergraduate degree,” she said.
Simanathia always wanted to be a prosecutor in the High Court of Cape Town but her application to study law had been rejected several times. But instead of giving up, she took another route, doing a BA degree and pursuing a law degree afterward.
“In my surroundings, our community is known for gang violence and social ills. I want to change the perspective on this and on coloured people. If we want to do something about it, we need to put our minds to it. I want to make a difference within my surroundings,” she said.
Growing up, Simanathia and her family moved around quite a bit. What made it more challenging was that her father was using drugs at the time.
“Instead of lashing out, I put all my energy, pain and hard work into my studies. I know how drugs and addiction can affect a person, especially young people. I made sure I pursued my studies no matter how hard it was,” she said.
She worked closely with the AJ Foundation which was supportive, offered emotional support and provided her with a mentor. “I still feel like we are a family,” she said.
“Their generosity and kindness inspired me to also give back. I am very grateful and thankful for their help,” she said.
She believes in the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, she said, and is grateful to her community for helping her in her studies. However, she still needs assistance to fund her law studies, she said.
Co-founder of the AJ Foundation, Jessie Julius said Simanathia connected with the foundation by applying for a bursary in 2017.
She was one of the last applicants on the final day of submissions for the bursary – and is the first of the three recipients to graduate from AJ Foundation. Two students are currently still studying, one educare at False Bay college and the other medicine at the University of Stellenbosch.
AJ Foundation provided her with a R40 000 bursary for the duration of her studies and also provided mentorship. We also assisted transport fees in the first year, said Mr Julius.
“As a foundation, we are extremely proud of Simanathia for graduating during such a difficult time. We applaud her tenacity and her willingness. She inspired us to continue the work because her hard work is testament to our circumstances not defining us. When we met with her recently post graduation it was beautiful to witness her maturity. We look forward to more of her successes,” he said.
Simanathia’s mother, Samantha Hendricks said she had always known her daughter was different.
“She is a gifted child to me. There was something about her that stood out for me. Her outlook on life for me was so different.
“Since she started school she did well and always gave her best. That is why I am proud of her. She is very focused and goes for what she wants. I am very proud to be her mother. I always told her what she puts in is what she’ll get out,” said Ms Hendricks.
Her father, Vincent Hendricks said she’s been an inspiration to him. “We’ve been through so much on her journey but she never looked back and she kept her eye on her goals. She never let our circumstances affect her vision and goal in her life to become a better person than the situation we live in in our area,” he said.
The former Tafelsig Primary School and Portland High School student said young people should push through to pursue their dreams. “You will get there. Our communities are family-based, there will always be people to assist you. The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. Ask for help when you need it,” she said.