MANDEVILLE, Manchester — When her school's guidance counsellor suggested that she add some science subjects to those she was planning to sit at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exam, Christine Clarke, a third former at the time, decided to take on the challenge.
Clarke, who graduated from Bishop Gibson High School in June, admitted to the Jamaica Observer that she was open to the idea even though she did not have an innate inclination towards natural sciences.
"I was just being positive," she said.
For her, there was also merit in being "well-rounded", just in case she had a change of heart about her career.
Two years later, her optimistic approach, hard work and "quite a few extra classes" earned her 11 distinctions according to this year's CSEC results. She was successful at English language and literature, mathematics, Spanish, French, Caribbean history, religious education, physics, chemistry, biology and geography.
With a desire to pursue a degree in law and minor in drama, Clarke also has among her list of subjects a Grade I in theatre arts which she earned from the Khulcha Theatre School of dance in Mandeville while in fourth form.
The 17-year-old says she thrives on competition and is naturally determined. The encouragement she received from her mother Dr Kharla Wright-Clarke was a huge boost for the only child. The teen says she was also inspired by her cousins who have also done well academically, and past students of Bishop Gibson with whom she interacted at dance lessons.
She has no doubt that her dreams will come true. "You get what you work for," she said.
The CSEC journey required her to prioritise her areas of interest, placing her schoolwork above other activities. As time for the exams grew closer, her sleeptime was reduced to half an hour on some nights; all with her mother's support.
"I like to go out and socialise, [but] my mother told me that if I wanted good grades I have to buckle down," she told the Observer.
At Bishop Gibson High, Clarke, who was valedictorian of her graduating class, was a member of the Speech and Drama Club and the Key Club.
She plans on pursuing the sixth form progarmme at Hampton High School in St Elizabeth. The change of environment, she says, is an opportunity to both learn more and make new friends.