Education has always been important to Stephanie Dunstan. But the Georgia-based Large Accounts Regional Vice President learned at a young age that just because it was important didn’t make it easy to attain.
Stephanie’s grandmother was a teacher at Queens High School, a prominent Jamaica school, for over 35 years. “She instilled the value of education in me at a very young age,” Stephanie recalled.
“I learned that education is the key to success.”
The Value of Education
Stephanie grew up in Jamaica where she and her brother were raised by her father and grandmother. “My father worked a lot to pay for home bills and our tuition, so my grandmother moved in to help and I spent more time with her at home,” Stephanie explained.
The island country of Jamaica, located in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful beaches, delicious jerk dishes and reggae music, but what some people may not know is that education is not free in Jamaica. “A lot of kids live in poverty or a crime-ridden area, there are single-parent households and some parents can’t afford to send their children to school,” Stephanie said. In many cases, the amount of money parents have to pay for their children’s schooling correlates with the quality of education they receive.
Stephanie moved to Philadelphia as a child to live with her mom. Her grandmother passed away in 2004. In the years following, Stephanie graduated from Penn State University, accepted a position with Arch Insurance in 2010 and continued to further her education by achieving her MBA and several designations in the insurance field, using her grandmother’s teachings as inspiration.
In 2016, Stephanie went back to Jamaica and learned that the school system had not improved since she was a child. Seeing this made her want to do more. “I made a personal donation to the school to go toward resources and tuition for children who couldn’t afford it,” she explained.
Moved to Do More
Two years later, during another trip to her home country, Stephanie met the parent of a student who had received a portion of her donations and used that to pay for school. “I was moved by how grateful this child’s mom was and the impact my donation made on their access to a quality education,” Stephanie said. “I felt compelled to do more.”
In 2018 she founded the Mavis Scarlett Foundation, named in honor of her grandmother, to focus on providing financial resources to students in Jamaica. Each year, the organization’s board of directors selects a group of students based on academic performance, financial need and attendance record to receive a scholarship. These students are then provided funds for tuition and supplies. “The grant covers all resources, from tuition to uniforms to books,” Stephanie explained. “We want to remove the worry for families of wondering how they will pay for school.”
Making Education Equitable
The foundation has partnered with two schools — one being Stephanie’s elementary school — and has supported 50 students to date. But that’s just a start, Stephanie said.
“My ultimate goal is to expand scholarship offerings. I want to help children of all ages and make access to education as equitable as possible.”
Among her “big plans” is to build an educational center where students can be tutored, access machines and have a designated place to study and do homework.
Regional Vice President, National Accounts Casualty