If there is any story that should inspire a child from the Cape Flats to rise above their circumstances, it is the story of Michellene Barnes.
Barnes -who grew up in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town- managed to complete her matric at Parow High school. In itself not an easy accomplishment, due to her challenging home conditions. For most of her upbringing, what Michellene called home, was either a servant’s quarters or a wendy house in someone’s backyard.
“My mother and I lived in the servant’s quarters of my uncle’s house for quite some time. This we shared with another relative and her two sons,” recalls Michellene.
To add to the pressures she faced, one of her family members had a drinking problem and this would cause regular disruptions in their lives. Her impoverished background meant that Barnes had one of two choices; become another Cape Flats statistic or through hard work and determination, become the Cape Flats inspiration that she is today.
With the mentorship and motivation gained from her mother and her grade 4 teacher, Michellene was encouraged to pursue a tertiary education. In grade 9, after achieving top results in a careers-guide questionnaire, it was clear that the financial sector was an obvious path for her to follow. Having set a goal in becoming a Chartered Accountant, Barnes decided to take up Mathematics and Accounting at High School.
In matric, she continued implementing her disciplined work ethic, while spending many hours researching and applying for bursaries. Her strong will was a bonus in preparing her for university, as she believed that she had to do everything possible to qualify for a place; while also securing sponsorship. Not allowing the countless rejected applications to discourage her, she pushed on until she was granted the prestigious; “South African Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Thuthuka Bursary.”
“Other people tend to lose focus under pressure, but I become more determined. I do not believe in quitting which kept me going, along with my support structure and prayer,” she added.
After completing her BA at the University of Stellenbosch, Barnes is now a young and talented professional -having achieved her dream of becoming a CA(SA). She also chairs the Thuthuka Alumni Association in the Western Cape, which has allowed her to pursue her aims of giving back to the community. She now mentors others in the principles her mother taught her; which include respect for others, working hard to achieve your goals and never giving up in life.
(image credit: linkedinZA)