Careers & Education

Competitive spirit serves Cheyenne Campbell well

... Teen lands nine grade ones in CSEC; Cheyenne eyes medicine

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Career & Education editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 02, 2012    

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NEVER one to shy away from competition and a habitual hard worker, Cheyenne Campbell is among the top performers at Clarendon College in the recent Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

The 16-year-old who, since first form, has been locked in a healthy competition with Jevon Wilson — the male youth who top scored in five of his nine subjects in CSEC this year, eight of which he earned with grade ones and one with a grade two — got nine grade ones.

Like Jevon, 17, Cheyenne's subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, English literature, English language, Spanish, geography, information technology, and mathematics.

"Ever since first form, it was always a competition between me and Jevon for first or second so my grades were really good. My lowest average ever was in first form and it was 80.3 per cent; I have never scored below that," she told Career & Education.

With three reports each year up to fifth form when they got only two, Cheyenne fondly recounts the rivalry between herself and the male youth.

"In first form, I came first once and second twice. Phmm, what happened in second form? Yes, I came first twice and second once. In third form, I came first twice and second once. In fourth form, I came first all three times and in fifth form, I came first twice," she said, the admiration for Jevon, who she'd had to work hard to outperform, clear.

CSEC, Cheyenne said, was an extension of that long-running competition between them.

"Jevon's always been a motivator for me because I have always wanted to beat him. When I was going into CSEC, I thought the both of us would get grade ones, but I said this is my chance to finally prove that I am as good or even better than him," the former May Pen Primary School student said with a laugh.

She has encouraged other students intent on academic success to themselves find a competitor — someone who keeps them studying and aspiring for excellence.

"[Having a competitor] is very important. Sometimes students need a little push to do their work and sometimes they don't get that. If you are a student who gets low grades, when you have somebody to compete with, you can look at that person and say that person is getting 80s and 90s and I can get that too; I think it motivates them to do better," Cheyenne said.

However, competition with Jevon was not the only thing that fired her desire to succeed and to continue doing so. Sheer hard work and a commitment to her studies over the years played a huge role.

"Ever since I was small, I loved reading and I loved books and it was always my interest to do book work. So even when I was at home and I saw all the other kids playing and walking around outside, that didn't really capture my attention. I am a person who loves to read so I would just stay inside and read my books," Cheyenne told Career & Education.

The range of extra-curricular activities in which she was involved — the school choir, math club, science club, quiz club, and chess club — also contributed to her brilliant performance.

"Chess is game that helps in concentration so it really helped me to focus on my work. For example, when I had a math problem to do or a physics problem to do and it was giving me a hard time, I was able to concentrate and figure it out more easily," the teen said.

Critically, Cheyenne — who grew up in a single parent household of women — said her mother Polly Richards has been her rock.

"My mother, she is a great individual. She always encourages me; she always tells me 'you will do well' and has always been pushing me," Cheyenne said. "My other family members — my [older] sister [Anastacia Larmond] and grandmother [Estriana Richards], they also always motivated me and told me that I will do well."

There was, too, her own commitment to always do well.

"I am a person who won't settle for failure. If I get bad grade, I am going to be sulking for the whole day. I am just gonna feel bad so that I have always tried not to get bad grades," she said.

She is thrilled that all those factors have coalesced to her help realise her CSEC goals.

"I am extremely elated. It's easy to say that you want to get nine grade ones or say you hope you get a lot of subjects with grade ones, but to actually see it written down in black and white... I feel extremely grateful that all my hard work has paid off and that all my sleepless nights were worth it," said Cheyenne, who will begin preparations for her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations this month.

She will study biology, physics, chemistry, and communication studies or Caribbean studies, in addition to pure math.

It's the next step on her road to a career in medicine.

"I want to become a doctor. I have always been fascinated with the idea of saving people's lives and I have always watched medical movies like Grey's Anatomy and they have always fascinated me. The body is such a wonderful work of art and I would like to explore it," she said.

Cheyenne sees herself studying at the University of the West Indies or at the University of Toronto or McGill University in Canada where she has relatives.

Her mother, meanwhile, is extremely proud of Cheyenne and has no doubt she will reach her goals.

"I think she has done excellent [work in CSEC]. She has always been a hard worker; from basic school she has been reading very well and has always done well. In primary school, she has always got the nineties and up. She is a very determined young lady," said Richards, who teaches mathematics at Bethel College.

Of her part in Cheyenne's success, she said she has always tried to be there for her child.

"Wherever I can assist, I assist. [With] assignments and so on, she is always coming to me and [as well as] to her sister and grandmother. When she is studying, she asks us to quiz her so we ask the questions and she answers. Whatever she learns at school, she comes home and teaches it to everybody in the house [and so] whenever she needs help people are there to assist her because she teaches us," the mother said.

Richards has advised parents to take a page out of her own book and support their children in any way they can.

"Parents should listen to their kids, be there for them and spend time and assist them. Sometimes you might not know the content of the subject they are doing [but that is alright]. Sometimes Cheyenne will ask me something and I tell her I don't know anything about that. [However], she would say 'come mommy, look at the it, you will understand' and I did," she noted.

At the same time, Richards said parents should not be afraid to monitor their children's cellphone and Internet while ensuring they are able to centre their energies on their schoolwork.

"Especially in the exam time, cut down on the house work [you give to them] and cut down on the television because television is a big distraction. The cellphone is good and it's bad. She [Cheyenne] uses the cellphone to study, like when they have the free nights and so on. But some people, they always talking on the cellphone, the Internet, the Facebook, and so on. You can have a little relaxation time, but too much of that is not good," Richards cautioned.

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