Karena Gayle, Montego Bay High School for Girls graduate, has always been an academic standout, coming first in all her classes, and this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations were no different.
Even in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and the frustrations of online schooling, the student copped nine subjects in CSEC, all with grade ones.
In an interview with JIS News, the 16-year-old noted that even with her academic prowess, she did not expect nine ones.
“Honestly, I was hoping for the best. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I had seen where I had fallen quite a number of times at school and made some silly mistakes, so what I had done was go out and find extra classes to help me, so that I could be successful in my final external examinations,” she said.
Karena admitted that she procrastinated a lot prior to her examinations. “It wasn’t until probably months before that it really hit me that I had exams,” she said, adding that she studied during the day, slept in the evenings, then studied all night.
Subjects passed by Karena were Mathematics, English Language, English Literature, Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Physical Education and Religious Education.
Of the nine subjects, she told JIS New, the Physics examination proved to be a challenge; however, she pushed through and ultimately got a grade one.
When the results came out, Karena said she was so nervous she had to ask her father to check the results for her.
“I said to him, ‘Daddy, if it is not nine ones on that phone, don’t tell me the results’. I was way too anxious to look at it,” she pointed out.
When she found out that she had passed all her subjects, Karena could not contain her joy, noting that she “ran through the house, screaming, waking everybody. I was jumping from bed to bed, I was really ecstatic”.
She said her mother and little sisters had similar reactions; however, her dad was cool and collected, as he was by no means surprised at her outstanding performance.
“Daddy was more contented because I had told him ‘Daddy, I am going to get nine ones’,” she told JIS News.
Of her future, Karena said her dream is to become an orthodontist, because of personal experience with a less-than-perfect smile.
“When I was younger, I used to get bullied about my teeth, so I would love to [improve] someone else’s smile, as I have seen how great [improving my smile] was for my confidence, so I would love to be an orthodontist. I would also like to be an entrepreneur with a supermarket franchise,” Karena added.
She noted that she is eyeing her dream school Howard University in the United States as a top pick for her college education; however, if she studies in Jamaica, her pick is the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Karena also plans to go nonstop through the stages of her education, as she is hoping to culminate her academic studies at age 26 by attaining her doctoral degree.
Her motivation, she said, are her parents, especially her father who is also a perfectionist.
“He is my driving force; he pushes me; he is really the rock that gets me going. My mom as well, but ever since I was smaller it was my dad. He always said my competition is not those around me, but I should always look at the bigger picture,” she told JIS News.
In addition to her nine subjects, she had passed three subjects in the 10th grade, namely Principles of Accounts, Principles of Business and Social Studies, all of which she passed with grade ones.
Young Karena said she is thankful to God, her family and friends, as she could not have been a success without them.
For her part, Karena’s mother, Omeil Bryan-Gayle, told JIS News that it was a good feeling to know that her daughter was successful in attaining her subjects, adding that she “felt as if I took the exams”.
Mrs. Bryan-Gayle said that online schooling made her anxious for her daughter, as Karena was worried about Chemistry and Physics.
However, they encouraged her and rallied around her as she did practice papers and studied.