For 17-year-old Gabrielle Clarke, achieving nine distinctions in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) was the culmination of five years of hard work and dedication.
The Immaculate Conception High School student scored grade ones in Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Information Technology, Spanish, English Language and English B.
“To be honest, I didn’t have a choice. I really wanted those ones and as far as I was concerned, I couldn’t get anything less,” she tells JIS News.
“I had to get them, and considering all that has happened, I am absolutely happy,” she adds.
The Deputy Chair on the Children’s Advisory Panel and founder of anti-bullying group, Bully-Proof Kids, Gabrielle has always been an achiever.
She is a member of her school’s orchestra and is a fairly accomplished violist, scoring the highest grade in the island last year in the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) examination.
She is also an avid swimmer and a member of the Tornadoes Swim Club and her school’s swim team.
Gabrielle admits that CSEC preparations were not easy as, when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced schools to close in March, there were still some lab sessions that she needed to complete for the School-based Assessment (SBA) component for some subjects.
Additionally, there was no last-minute revision or critical one-on-one time with teachers to go over subject areas where she needed further support.
She had to work hard on her own to complete the syllabus, and disruptions in Wi-Fi connection caused her to miss some classes.
On top of that, she was juggling classes for the Standardised Aptitude Test (SAT) and swim training while sitting the CSEC exams.
“The [SAT classes that I had registered for actually started in the middle of my exam period and so I was studying for exams while doing the classes. I had to really manage my time extremely well,” she tells JIS News
However, she was determined to not let the hurdles prevent her from achieving her goals.
“I believe that we can’t let one circumstance distract us from what we want. It’s a pandemic, yes, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from getting what I wanted and what I have worked so hard for over these five years. It definitely wasn’t going to stop me,” she says.
Gabrielle credits her mother, Marilyn Clarke and other members of her immediate family for keeping her motivated.
“My mother motivates me a lot; I pray and speak with my mother and she definitely helps me and encourages me. She is definitely my support system,” she shares.
In the meantime, the multifaceted teenager, who has transitioned to sixth form but has not yet chosen a career path, says she wants to do something that she loves.
Having faced bullying in preparatory school, she is passionate about heightening awareness about the issue among students.
“I really want to have a greater impact on young people in Jamaica, offer workshops, offer resource material to schools and I really want to get partners and sponsors to do more voluntary work within the children homes,” she tells JIS News.