HER guiding principle is a famous quote by Marcus Garvey which says if you have no self-confidence you are twice defeated in the race of life.

Kellesia Ebanks, 26, told All Woman that the quote remains at the forefront of her thoughts because of the personal courage and encouragement of others that it took for her to realise her dreams.

Born and raised in Exton District, St Elizabeth until age nine, Ebanks shared that though life was no bed of roses, she spent time helping her grandfather, a subsistence farmer, with his produce, and looked forward to picking mangoes and hog berries in the neighbourhood.

This, coupled with long walks to and from school, saw her enjoying a simple life without much to worry about.

But Ebanks admitted that on moving to Kingston she experienced a shift, as she fell victim to bullying because of her clothing, the way she combed her hair, and her weight.

This led her to become withdrawn and very shy, and she subsequently accepted bullying and believed she could not achieve her goals.

 But Ebanks’ turning point came when she began attending St Andrew High School for Girls, where her drama teacher Damian Radcliffe helped her find herself through the arts.

“He saw the potential in me and I went on to the JCDC festival competition, won best supporting actress, then I was invited to the Jamaica Youth Theatre, and today I’m the president,” she beamed.

Since then, Ebanks has moved from strength to strength. She holds a bachelor of science degree in electronic engineering from the Mona School of Engineering, University of the West Indies, and she is a current Chevening scholar who will go on to Brunel University, London, to pursue a master of science in building services engineering with sustainable energy.

Apart from being president of the Jamaica Youth Theatre, which she has led to Scotland, Barbados, England and Trinidad to participate in festivals, Ebanks has displayed her talents onstage as a runner-up in the 2016 Ms Jamaica Festival Queen competition. Her academic qualifications have landed her the post of heating ventilation and air conditioning engineer and project installation manager with CAC 2000 Limited. In addition, she is a variable refrigerant flow specialist and the first person in Jamaica to install an air conditioning heat recovery system.

She explained: “An a/c unit produces cooling by removing heat. Heat removed is usually blown off the unit outside and wasted into the atmosphere. The heat recovery system uses waste heat to pre-heat water going into a heating device/water heater. This pre-heated water allows less energy usage when the water is being fully heated.”

Ebanks, who has led the charge with projects for the Civil Aviation Authority, Norman Manley International Airport, the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, Melia Braco Hotel and the new cruise ship terminal in Montego Bay, hopes to play an integral role in achieving sustainable development in Jamaica, and plans to start by creating a cooling code for commercial buildings.

“This will be a blueprint for building design. If you can create a building that produces as much energy as it uses, we can get as close as possible to a net zero building. I want that to be the norm — helping commercial buildings from the design level to become net zero by using natural resources to cool a building, if it means angling the building a particular way or insulating the roof with greenery. What many people don’t know is that an air conditioning unit uses more than 60 per cent of electrical energy consumption, so if you can reduce that, it makes a huge difference in energy consumption and the carbon footprint of our country,” she said, adding that she hopes one day to be in a position to ensure that her home town, Exton, has running water.

She is the founder of the Youth for Youth programme – a mentorship initiative and collaboration between the Jamaica Youth Theatre and Jamaica Aids Support for Life to educate young people about HIV/AIDS and facilitate a big brother/sister programme among young professionals and students.

Also the vice-president of the Mona School of Engineering Alumni Association, Ebanks declared that one of her most rewarding experiences is being able to share with young people and women her journey thus far.

“As a female, it is not easy to manage men, as there’s a thin line between earning respect and bruising their ego. When I just started working, my boss told me that as a female you have to work twice as hard, and it’s true. I have to work twice as hard to gain same respect from my male counterparts and initially it wasn’t easy, but it has got smoother. If I had no confidence I would have failed. So I say to other young women, no matter the industry or your background, work hard, set goals, respect yourself and you will achieve,” she stressed.

Ebanks, who enjoys the beach, travelling and attending her church — Boulevard Baptist ­— credits her mentors Aston Cooke and Colin Roberts for her growth over the years. Her dream is to see more women winning, especially in engineering.