Westwood here she comes!
A dream realised for St Mary student with scoliosis
DESPITE being diagnosed with scoliosis at age eight, Anika Kelly surpassed all her obstacles to earn a place at Westwood High School in the recent Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) examinations.
Kelly who resides in Nutfield, St Mary and attends Hillside Primary, has been described by her mother Yvette Hamil as a 'go-getter' since she was in basic school.
"She is very persistent and anything she sets out to do, she does. From basic school she was very promising," she said.
But when Kelly's condition worsened around peak time for preparations to sit the exams, Hamil said that her daughter's strength seemingly could not be broken.
"In January she started to feel some excruciating pains and I remember she said to me, 'Mommy I am going to Westwood, so you have to do something for me. I've been working hard from grade one and I can't give up now. I have to do my exams.
"She was stronger than me. I cried every day and at times she would say to me 'a wah do yuh, nothing no do me enuh, a the same me'. She would always say things to lift my spirit," Hamil said.
She added that carrying her back and forth from St Mary to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) proved stressful and though it helped, the surgery that Kelly will receive from the Scotia Foundation's Scoliosis and Spine Care Programme this summer will benefit her for the rest of her life and be more cost-effective to the family.
Scoliosis is an S-shaped curvature of the spine often seen in adolescents. It causes pain and can result in respiratory complications.
Kelly, who could not contain her joy, said that words could not describe how elated she was as she knows what she endured to get her desire.
"In January it was hackling and I had to be in bed for the practice tests we did at school. I didn't even have enough time to study as I often times lay in bed crying," she said.
Her determination to fight the pains and attend school, she said, were part of her zeal to excel.
"I wanted to make a difference and be different. I don't want to struggle as how I saw my parents struggle with me growing up and I know this would have been the start to being successful. I also wanted to learn and get my first choice," Kelly said.
She added that she has always admired Westwood High, as the girls are always well-groomed and disciplined.
For others like her and those without any complications, Kelly said, " study hard, as hard work pays off and with God all things are possible."
Principal of Hillside Primary, Phyllis Williams-Miller had a proud moment when she saw that Kelly had an average of 92 per cent and was placed at her first choice, Westwood High. She said the period was a challenging time for the school but they rallied around her to ensure she did well.
"It [scoliosis] got very intense in January and students had to take her bag from she got to the gate and we had to take her to the sick bay and that's where she would spend the days. We had to be icing her back as she told us what would ease the pain," said Williams-Miller.
But like her mother, the principal said that Kelly is very persistent and refused to miss school even when she was in tremendous pain.
"She would cry and I would say to her 'Anika, don't come tomorrow' and she would say to me 'No Miss, I have to come to school'. It was once that she actually didn't come and then I knew the pain was too much for her to bear," she said.
Williams-Miller said that when things were not looking good for Kelly she thought of having her repeat, since she is only 10 but because of her determination she allowed her to do the exams.
"We were worried because of the pain she was in, she had to be resting and doing her work from the sick bay and I weighed the options and decided that I would let her do the exam as she is a brilliant student who is always determined," Williams-Miller said.
The principal said that through the Student Assessment Unit, special provisions were made for Kelly to do the examination.
"She had her own invigilator as well as a bed, so she could rest and get up and do the exam again," Williams-Miller said.
Additionally she said that Kelly would plea to participate in events at the school's Sports Day such as races and cheer-leading, adding that she is an active member of the 4-H Club , Brownie Pack and a Peer Counsellor.
As far as finances are concerned, Kelly's mother said that she thought about transferring her daughter to a closer school, as Westwood's fees would prove a challenge. However, she said that she would not let her child down, and she knows all will be well.
"From she was small her eyes were set on that school and I'm not going to let her down. Her father has vowed to pay half and the rest will come, whether by a scholarship or assistance in some way or form. She will attend Westwood and she will do well. She managed to overcome the pain and obstacles that come with the scoliosis to get what she wants and God granted her the desire of her heart. I know everything will work out," Hamil said.
Kelly who will graduate from Hillside Primary on July 2 will be the valedictorian for the class of 2014. She will then undergo corrective surgery to her spine at KPH though the Scotia Foundation's Scoliosis and Spine Care Programme and hopes to be in good health for the start of the new school year in September.