Jamaican teen offered 9 scholarships by US universities

BY PAUL HENRY henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 03, 2014

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TCHAKAMAU, the ambitious and brilliant schoolgirl the Jamaica Observer featured two years ago along with her brother for their academic achievements, has been accepted into 11 American universities, nine of which have offered her scholarships.

Her mother Kamau Mahakoe shared the news with the Observer yesterday, noting that she was proud of her daughter's achievement.

"Clearly, l'm ecstatic. I feel really good for her because she has been focused from the start," Kamau said of her 17-year-old daughter, who had been home-schooled before moving on to Immaculate Conception High School in St Andrew, and then the Hillel Academy on a scholarship.

"She has never lost sight of her goals... you don't have to push her... she uses her initiative," Kamau added. "I'm happy for her. Really happy."

Among the 11 institutions in the US that have accepted the teen's applications are Princeton, Duke, Yale, and Stanford universities and the University of Chicago.

The teen is still not clear on which she will be attending come August/September to pursue double majors in physics and biology. She wants to become an astronaut, her mother said.

Asked how she felt about being accepted by 11 universities, Tchakamau responded: "I was just thinking that it's a really good thing that I got accepted by so many. I'm pretty proud, because I got into my top choice, University of Chicago."

Meanwhile, Mahakoe and her husband Omari Ra — a senior lecturer and artist at the Edna Manley School for the Visual and Performing Arts -- have home-schooled their four children in the primary years.

Tchakamau and her brother Kuti have performed brilliantly in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams and CXCs.

In 2012 Tchakamau was successful in a mind-boggling 16 subjects, with 15 at grade one and one at grade two.

Kuti entered Jamaica College at Grade 9 at the young age of 12 in 2011, with six CSECs.

Kuti is now in fifth form and is toying with the idea of entering politics or becoming a scientist.

"The persons who blaze the trail in the world never ask themselves why stop at [a certain point]; they always ask themselves why not step forward and see how much we can do. As a result, we benefit from so many inventions and ideas because they raise the bar; they never settle for what is considered enough," Kamau told the Observer in a 2012 interview, while responding to critics who said that children like hers didn't need to accumulate that many subjects to enter college.

Yesterday, Kamau said her daughter's routine consists of reading, which she has been doing "fluently" from she was two years old and which is her passion; studying and watching educational videos, particularly those that have to do with astronomy.

She said her daughter befriends like-minded teens who share her passion.

Tchakamau, meanwhile, had some words of advice for her peers: "Set goals, work towards them and surround yourself with good people."




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