WHEN former Carapichaima East footballer Akinee Harry was arrested in 2014 in relation to a $30,000 theft, he thought his life was over. But, thanks to the right people supporting him, and through hard work and determination, the then 18-year-old Harry has turned his life around and is now a college graduate.
Now 22-years-old with a degree in criminology, Harry’s story is far from finished. Thanks to a post about his attaining a degree which went viral on social media, Harry, who is currently a taxi driver, is being invited to several schools – and even prison – to give motivational speeches. He plans to pursue a Master's degree in criminology.
Harry’s story may soon be available to everyone, as he told Newsday yesterday he has already started writing a book on his life, trials and triumphs.
“I only started about a month ago,” Harry said, “But it is part of my drive to share my story and inspire others.”
He said he is still working on a name for the book, but says the memoir would be a tell-all of his life and the challenges he faced which led him down a dark path which he was fortunate to escape.
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, he recalled the moment police stormed his Cedar Hill, Claxton Bay home with a warrant for his arrest. He told Newsday that was the start of a chain of events which led him to being the person he is today.
Harry said in 2014, he was a student of Carapichaima Secondary who was juggling classes, playing for the football team as a defender, and working as a clerk in Empire Cinema. Looking back, Harry told Newsday he felt frustrated by his predicament.
“I was coming to work and being put under pressure every day. I had a bad financial situation and was struggling for money. I was frustrated.” Harry said.
With an accomplice, Harry stole $30,000 from the Cinema’s coffers. It wasn’t long before police came knocking on his door.
“I was at home when it happened. It was a Friday,” Harry said. “Two police trucks came to my house with about eight police officers. They were armed with guns and a warrant for my arrest and to search the house. They searched the house, but they didn’t find anything. They arrested me anyway. Almost my entire family lived in the same yard as me, so they all came out to see what was happening while the police handcuffed me and carried me to their van. My aunt and uncle who was there when the police came tried to protect me, and that led to my uncle being arrested as well.”
Harry told Newsday he spent the weekend in a holding cell, then was taken to court on the following Monday. The case was adjourned until later that week, and Harry was held in remand for a couple days, then released on bail after.
Harry told Newsday at first he did not admit to being involved with the theft, but evidence against him became so overwhelming that he had no choice but to confess. He found himself standing before Magistrate Natalie Diop, begging for a second chance. The magistrate, because of his clean record and because of his academic and sporting achievements, saw it fit to give him the second chance he was pleading for and he was placed on a bond for two years.
Harry told Newsday, at the time he was arrested, he had completed his SAT and was getting calls from colleges in the United States. Those opportunities and his dreams of pursuing a football career in the United States were all dashed because he was unable to leave the country.
In his post on social media, he recalled crying himself to sleep at night, regretting the missed opportunities that came his way.
Having been arrested when he was in Lower Six, the determined young man still decided to continue his education. But he had to face schoolmates and teachers who knew of his situation.
“Some teachers would talk bad behind me. One teacher didn’t even want to teach me any more,” Harry said.
He said for every person that was negative toward him, there was another who was showing him support. Harry named his father, Thorald Harry; his best friend, Ricardo Paul; and Rennette Thomas, his girlfriend, as some of the people he was able to lean on.
That support continued while he was studying criminology at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. He said balancing academic requirements in UTT and his new job as a taxi driver proved another challenge but he did not let frustration get the better of him and rose above it to succeed.
Harry said his pursuit of his degree in criminology was also a journey of self discovery.
“(The degree) was challenging. Completing it was challenging too, because of the setbacks here and there, but I just had to put my mind to it.” Harry said. “Learning about different criminal and psychological theories gave me better insight into why people act a certain way and I could have brought that back to my scenario and understand why I did what I did.”
In his post on social media, he thanked family and loved ones for supporting him and thanked Magistrate Diop for giving him the second chance he so desperately needed. He completed his post with a message to youths like him who are faced with difficulties, encouraging them to never limit themselves.
“To all the ghetto youths out there, we can achieve anything we want to. Don't limit your potential based on where you come from or the things you have done in the past. Use it to fuel your success,” he declared.