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The Little Boy from Jamaica

It has been well-over a year since Devon Clunis retired as Winnipeg's Chief of Police, but he is still a familiar face across Winnipeg and beyond.

After immigrating to Canada at age 11 from Jamaica, Mr. Clunis grew up to become the first Black Canadian police chief in 2012.

Mr. Clunis and his wife Pearlene Clunis wrote a children's book about his life, entitled The Little Boy from Jamaica: A Canadian History Story. The book details Mr. Clunis's early struggles in school after coming to Canada, and how one teacher—Mrs. Hanna—helped him turn his life around at an early age.

Mr. and Mrs. Clunis visited Dufferin School recently to read the book to students and answer questions. As it turns out, the former chief of police is an alumnus of several WSD schools, including Isaac Newton and St. John's High School.

"I grew up very similar to you, I lived in the North End. I never thought I could be who I am today."

It was difficult for Mr. Clunis to see the possibilities of life during that first year in Winnipeg.

"I left everyone I knew, the country, the climate, and I arrived here in Winnipeg and it was really hard making that transition. Winnipeg in 1975…was not a very diverse community. So it was hard for that little boy to make that transition. I failed Grade 6 and there were a lot of people who did not believe that little boy was very smart."

Mr. Clunis said the hero of his own story was his teacher, Mrs. Hanna. She saw potential in that little boy from Jamaica, and offered to help him pick up his marks.

"Mrs. Hanna said 'Devon, you come to school an hour early, and put in some work.'"

Even if it was difficult for Mr. Clunis to come to school an hour early every day, it soon paid off. He eventually became an honour roll student.

"This teacher was willing to give her time, and nobody was paying her to do that," Mr. Clunis said. "After about three months, school became very easy."

Mr. and Mrs. Clunis said that with commitment, hard work and a belief in oneself, the possibilities are endless.

"Even if it seems hard right now, if you put in a little bit of work with people who want to help you, you can be anything you want to be. There are no limits."

Students Asmar Ali and Dreden Moore said they both had ambitions of being police officers when they grew up.

"I thought it was inspiring," Dreden said of the presentation. "His message was if you stay in school and don't skip, you can be anything you want."

"We should believe in ourselves," Asmar added.

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