“It is not the school that you attend that makes you who you are but it is what you do with the available resources; that is what counts,” says 18-year-old Shackoyla Crooks of Godfrey Stewart High School in Westmoreland.
Shackoyla is a testament of her own words as through her drive, commitment and determination, she attained 10 Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) subjects with six distinctions, three credits and one pass in 2015.
She also earned five Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) unit one subjects, with four distinctions and one credit.
For her achievement, she was named the top awardee at the National Child Month Committee’s (NCMC) 2016 Youth Academic Achievement Award (YAAA) ceremony held recently at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
The award programme recognises high-achieving students from non-traditional high schools across the island. Shackoyla, who is in sixth form at Godfrey Stewart, strongly believes that students can thrive wherever they are placed.
In her words of encouragement to students, who attend or will be attending non-traditional institutions, she implored them not to let stigma deter them from achieving their goals.
She said they should always perform at their best and become “shining stars” regardless of the institutions that they attend.
“Many persons in the society have the opinion that only underachievers are sent to non-traditional high schools. However, I was determined to not let that hinder me from striving for success,” she noted.
Shackoyla also encouraged the students to believe in themselves. Quoting Jamaica’s first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey she said: “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.”
She added that achievement does not happen overnight and it takes commitment, perseverance, dedication and the “burning of the midnight oil”.
Shackoyla noted that even though she did not always have the resources to complete her studies at home, she did not allow this to deter her. She confessed that she would often stay late after school to use the computer laboratory to complete her assignments as she did not own a computer.
We Proved Them Wrong
She commended the achievements of the other awardees. “We weren’t seen by society as the apple of the eye and they thought we could not achieve great things because we were sent to non-traditional schools, but we have proved them wrong,” she said.
“We all have achieved great things, even though we were faced with many struggles along the way… We have overcome our challenges and have excelled academically,” she added.
Shackoyla urged them to continue striving for greatness so that they can inspire other students in non-traditional high schools across the island.
“Push yourself beyond limitations and take advantage of every opportunity. If you fail along the way, it is never too late to set another goal… . You cannot climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pocket… . Remember, to be a champion you have to believe in yourself when no one else will,” she said.
Shackoyla, who has a strong support system comprised of her mother, teachers and friends, aspires to become a pharmacist or medical technician.
During the ceremony, 15 other students from non-traditional high schools across the island were honoured by the National Child Month Committee for outstanding performance in their external examinations. The students were presented with certificates, plaques, and gift baskets.
The other awardees were Shamar Bennett from the Salvation Army School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Kingston; Marshagay O’Gilvie, Robert Lightbourne High, St. Thomas; Elise Daley, Kingston High, Kingston; Robert Gayle, Penwood High, St. Andrew; Shanique Tyrell, Tarrant High, St. Andrew; Ackeem Brooks, Guy’s Hill High, St. Catherine; Kressan Flowers, Kemps Hill High, Clarendon; William Francis, Denbigh High, Clarendon; Vanesta Mullings, Porus High, Manchester; Tanique Mason, Cross Keys High, Manchester; Althea Garrick, Aabuthnott Gallimore High, St. Ann; Shanice Thomas, Roger Clarke High, St. Elizabeth; Richard Poyser, Irwin High, St. James; Romeo Bowyer, Hopewell High, Hanover; and Reynaldo Morris, Grange Hill High, Westmoreland.
To qualify for the YAAA, students must attend a non-traditional high school, attain five or more subjects at the CSEC level and overcome great odds to achieve these outstanding results. They should also be involved in community service in keeping with the spirit of voluntarism.
Source: Jamaica Information Service