Alpha's head girl signs out in style
Kaela Calvert boasts 14 grade ones, two grade twos across CSEC, CAPE Units 1 and 2
Kaela Calvert

IN grade six several teachers expressed concern regarding Kaela Calvert's inability to perform at the required level and recommended that a learning assessment be done to evaluate her readiness for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which has since been replaced by the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).

Upon completing the learning assessment, the results showed that she was unable to perform as well as her peers in some areas. This meant that she had to be given additional time in completing the GSAT examinations.

Today, the 19-year-old outgoing head girl at Convent of Mercy Academy "Alpha" boasts seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects -- grade ones in mathematics, English language, English literature, information technology, physics, chemistry, Spanish, and a two in visual arts.

For the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) Unit 1, Calvert bagged ones in physics, pure mathematics, and computer science. She has a two in communication studies.

Kaela Calvert

More recently, she copped straight ones in Unit 2 physics, pure mathematics, computer science, and Caribbean studies.

"I am always in disbelief whenever I see my results because I just cannot believe that I scored 60 per cent in GSAT and have now obtained grade ones in pure mathematics. Nonetheless, I am grateful to God for such a supportive family and I am proud of myself for achieving my high school goals. My experience has solidified the words of my grandmother, 'What men have done men can do.' My sister attended the academy and set the bar for CSEC subjects really," Calvert told Career & Education.

"She was also one of the deputy head girls of the academy 2020-2021. Her performance at the academy has motivated me to strive for even better than what she has achieved. I deeply value the opinions of my family, and just to know that they are pleased allows me to be content in what I have accomplished and eager to do even more. I am grateful to all my teachers for their unwavering support. They have always motivated me and challenged me to do my best."

Calvert, who is now a freshman at The University of the West Indies, Mona, majoring in software engineering, pointed to two types of students: those who can check their results and those who have to ask someone else to check for them. She's a part of the latter.

CALVERT... I am always in disbelief whenever I see my results (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

"I remember my big sister checking my results on her phone. She started to rejoice without mentioning my actual grades, after which the phone was passed to my younger sister and then, finally, I saw my results. Screams, screams, screams, and more screams. I was elated and pleased. I didn't even realise that, out of the four subjects, I got three straight A profiles," she shared.

Calvert grew up in Portmore, St Catherine, with her parents and two sisters and enjoys creating art and playing badminton. Her early education began at Alpha Infant. She then transitioned to Jessie Ripoll Primary School. Calvert's GSAT scores landed her at Excelsior High School, where she spent two years.

"During this time I still struggled with mathematics but began to excel in other subjects, such as Spanish and French. This meant that I had to work twice as hard to achieve an average score and two times harder to achieve excellence. This was where my mindset began to change. I went from doubting myself to believing that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me," she recalled.

"Having an older sister also helped in motivating me to do my best and to also strive for excellence. After the first two years at Excelsior, I transferred to the academy, where I united with my older sister. My older sister has always been one of my role models and I feel accomplished when she expresses that she is proud of my performance."

Calvert said her family is built on the foundation of Christianity and credits her boldness to an exposure to large audiences in church and the various ministries that she has been a part of, including the choir, dance, sign language, multimedia, and praise and worship team. But right when she found and began enjoying a groove, the novel coronavirus pandemic shuffled the deck.

"The pandemic fuelled uncertainty, worry, and anxiety in many students, including myself. The sudden adjustment to online learning came with a lot of fear. I was getting ready to sit my external examinations and I had no answers to the many questions that I had. However, the year 2020 was not as difficult as 2021 and 2022 because I had already gotten most of my SBAs [school-based assessment] and assessments completed. In the following years I was forced to become independent," she explained.

"Adjusting to the new normal had many challenges, such as maintaining an excellent average, maintaining an active school presence while online, and communicating with teachers and peers. As a practical science student I was forced to use my imagination and instead of physical lab set-ups I had to now use virtual simulations and make my observations based on those results. Any queries that I had about a subject-related matter had to be e-mailed. In essence, COVID-19 robbed me and several other students of developing meaningful relationships with the administrative and academic staff."

And she told Career & Education that being head girl made her anxious for results.

"During this academic school year I had to manage my time, in terms of engaging with the students, both online and face-to-face, academics; external school affairs; clubs; church; and all that I was doing prior to the role of being the head girl. It was difficult trying to strike a balance, but eventually, thanks to the leadership team, we were able to push through," she related.

Calvert said she pressured herself to set an "all-rounded standard for my sisters, fellow Alpharians, and also for my younger sibling. This all-rounded standard included academics, and I wanted to be someone that the ladies of the academy would want to emulate. So while awaiting results, I had all these thoughts racing through my mind".

She expressed special thanks to her parents who she said have always supported her and had confidence in her capabilities even when she did not.

"My parents have expressed that they are proud of me and all that I have accomplished. My sisters have also expressed their great delight in my performance. My father being the pastor of Pentecostal Redeemed Church of God in Arnett Gardens has a habit of celebrating individuals and so he has always celebrated every milestone that I have crossed, no matter how small. My mother has been a tower of strength and has somewhat served as a mentor to me. Her years of experience as a teacher have always benefited me in my journey throughout secondary education."

BY ROMARDO LYONS Career & Education reporter Lyonsr@jamaicaobserver.com

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