Can you imagine being a teenager, only 16, and having to prepare for the most important examinations of your life, knowing that your family and friends are experiencing a nightmare?
That was the reality for Carlisle Brown, who did the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations in May, during the military/police operation in sections of Western Kingston.
St. George’s College student, Carlisle Brown, speaking with JIS News.
During the operation, communities in the area experienced heavy gunfire which left more than 70 persons dead.
“I was there the Sunday when it started, I had to leave out early the Monday morning to do R.E. (Religious Education)…when I finished the exam they said that I couldn’t reach back home because it had started, people started dying and all those things, so a parent from the school volunteered to let me stay at her house,” he says.
In addition to Religious Education, Carlisle sat English A, English B, Mathematics, Information Technology, Principles of Business, Electrical and Electronic Document Preparation and Management, a total of eight subjects.
While undertaking his exams, he was a bit distracted, as the safety and wellbeing of his family weighed heavily on his mind.
“It was hard, actually, very hard, because when I was doing the exams I was thinking, ‘wonder if my mother alright, wonder if my likkle brother alright; friends and family’,” he tells JIS News.
However, growing up in the inner city community of Denham Town, this young man was accustomed to facing challenges and rising above them, especially when it came to his academic pursuits.
“It was rough because I didn’t really have the resources to get prepared like the SBAs (School Based Assessments) and all those things.The money and like computers to type.so I had to be using the school labs.I had to be working like during my lunch time and after school,” he says.
He has been to school on numerous occasions without lunch money, but still had a bright smile on his face, “not letting anyone know that I’m even broke.”
He notes that even though many have negative perceptions of individuals who reside in marginalised communities, he used these comments as driving forces, combined with hard work, to excel.
“At times it was rough, because people (would continually) say, ‘Oh, a Denham Town him come from, him nah turn out to nutten good”, and so mi always haffi ah mek that motivate me to move up more, so that mi can show them that yeah, (is not) everything bad come from the ghetto,” he tells JIS News.
Carlisle says he used these criticisms to fuel his dreams of academic success, explaining that throughout high school, he got involved in extra-curricular activities and sought to be an inspiration to other youths in his school, as well as his neighbourhood.
He is currently the clerk for the Teens for Technology club at St. George’s College, and the Captain of the school’s Rugby team.
“In my community, I am a part of the Eagle Hikers Community Police Youth Club. I’m a member of the Kingston Western Police Youth Council and I’m also a peer educator for the Ministry of Health,” he informs.
Even though he is involved in these extracurricular activities, his main focus continues to be his studies.
The wait for his CSEC exams results during the summer was almost unbearable, but when he finally received them last month, Carlisle and his parents were filled with relief and pride as he had acquired eight passes- four twos and four threes.
“I felt good, very good.I hope that younger persons around me will look at me as a role model, and say that if I can achieve eight, they can achieve nine,” he says.
This academic year, Carlisle is continuing his education in St. George’s College’s Sixth Form. He aspires to a career in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), specialising in graphics.
He encourages others to continually strive for excellence, irrespective of their background.
“(Do not) let anyone get you down and just always aim high,” he advises.
So whatever situation you may be experiencing, remember that while some persons cannot directly choose their circumstances, they can choose their thoughts and, surely, shape those circumstances.