Having attended a non-traditional high school, and being appointed a Principal at the age of 32, Nahalia Lynch, who heads the St. Elizabeth-based Morningside Primary and Infant School, believes strongly that students can succeed at all educational institutions.
The young principal, who obtained her secondary education at the then BB Coke Comprehensive High School (now BB Coke High School) in St. Elizabeth, then advanced training and degrees at Bethlehem Moravian College, Western Carolina University, and the University of the West Indies, says parents must provide support for their children, while the stigmatisation of certain schools must end.
“The secret to success is not the name of your school. Greatness lies within you. Through hard work and determination you can achieve immense success. Others before me did it, I did it, others right now are doing it, and you can do it too,” Miss Lynch tells JIS News.
Emphasising that parental support is “vital” in the motivation of children to learn, she says that parents, teachers and the wider community have a duty to make students feel like more than just “exam grades”.
The Principal says that going to BB Coke in 1995 was a blessing, although the decision was not hers.
“It is not the school, it is you. When children are placed at their first choice, we must celebrate them, because that is an accomplishment, but not everyone will be able to go to a traditional high school. Life has no limitations, except the ones that you make for yourself, so grow where you are planted, and bloom,” she encourages.
According to the principal, many persons in all areas of society had their educational development at non-traditional high schools, and are now “making marks” in building their country, and elsewhere.
“Going to a traditional high school is not an automatic ticket for success, while going to a non-traditional high school is not an automatic ticket for failure,” she argues, adding that success “requires setting goals and being dedicated”.
“I want these young ladies and gentlemen to know that if you work hard, and you are dedicated, you can succeed anywhere,” she adds.
Miss Lynch, who succeeded in her second try at the Common Entrance Examinations, tells JIS News that she cried when her mother, a domestic worker, decided that she had to attend BB Coke, as she could not afford transportation or boarding costs for the other sought-after high schools in St. Elizabeth and Manchester.
She now believes that the decision allowed her to be bonded in love and care with her teachers, which strengthened her resolve to succeed.
“I believe that is where I needed to be, because that was the chapter in my life that contributed to who I am today. I remember my teacher at BB Coke, Miss Denise Baker, telling me: ‘Nahalia Lynch, you need to be pregnant with ideas’. As teenagers, sometimes you get distracted by things that happen in the world, and happening around you, so those teachers were so caring, motivating, and literally walked behind us, to protect and ensure that students did well at school,” she tells JIS News.
Miss Lynch shares that her mother was a very strict parent, and never allowed them (her and her brother), to wander around in the community, and she had to reach home no later than one hour after school dismissed.
She also credits her father, stepfather and community members, who ensured that she stayed on the right path.
“Who I am today was also shaped by a lot of experiences, and what my community would have done,” the Principal says.
The help and care that she received from others have influenced the Principal to give back through her involvement in charitable causes across St. Elizabeth, and through early-morning extra classes and classes in the evenings, prior to the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in March.
“When others have poured into you, it is important to pour into others,” she reasons.
Her school boasts a one hundred per cent literacy rate, while numeracy is more than eighty per cent.
Since her appointment five years ago, the school has experienced significant upgrading in infrastructure and expansion of Internet service. Stakeholders, including parents and teachers, have also spearheaded development projects at the institution.
Community leader, Claudette Thomas, who is the Secretary/Treasurer for the Rose Hall Civic Committee, says she continues to be “impressed” by the work of the educator.
“Although she was from a fairly poor background, she was always this little girl who was different. She kept her focus right through, and did well,” Mrs. Thomas says.
Community elder, Evelyn Smith, who knew the principal from she was about five years, tells JIS News that Miss Lynch remains this very “nice young lady, well-behaved and disciplined”.
“It doesn’t matter where you go [to school], once you have good ambition, you will learn. Young people can take her as an example. I am proud of her, really proud,” Mrs. Smith says.
Past student of the Morningside Primary School, Monique Johnson, who is now studying at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), says her former principal is one of the “best” persons she has met, noting that she is “very involved” with the school.
“That makes her a very good role model. I have learnt from her how to be a woman,” she shares, adding that the principal helps others and listens to her students.