Given up to die by doctors, Zain Simms produces PEP stunner

Doctors and relatives of Zain Simms were convinced that he would not live as he was born prematurely at six months old.

He fought and proved them all wrong. Today his mother, Shelly-Ann Williams, who always believed her "miracle baby" would live, is ecstatic at his impressive showing in the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) series of exams.

Twelve-year-old Zain, who graduated from Eccleston Primary and Infant School last Tuesday, copped awards for the highest average in PEP mathematics, English, social studies, science, and mental ability.

School officials said Zain is the first student at the institution to score a 377.6 average since the inception of PEP. The youngster also bagged the Principal's Top Boy Award, along with the Model Student Award.

It is all a bit surreal for Williams, but she never doubted that her son would do great things.

Zain Simms at birth. He was born prematurely, at six months old.

"A lot of family members said he wouldn't make it because he was half pound and all sort of things, but I believed and prayed for my son. Even doctors told me he wouldn't make it because of how he looked," said Williams.

Most of Zain's early days were spent at Bustamante Hospital for Children, she told the Jamaica Observer.

"At one point he went blue for 30 minutes and the doctor told me that I should go home because he was so ill; but I didn't give up. I stayed outside the hospital because part of me knew my boy was alive. A few minutes later the doctor came back and said, 'He is a persistent boy!' because he gave his first kick," Williams recalled.

"In that moment I knew I had a survivor and he was a miracle baby. So when I saw my son collecting all those awards at his graduation and I look at where he is coming from, I couldn't contain myself. I was trembling the whole time because I was so overjoyed," she added.

Zain Simms with principal of Eccleston Primary and Infant School Keisha Wisdom.

Zain, she said, is no stranger to success.

"The teachers used to tell me that he was a fast learner and he knows everything. He is a special child because he just knows most things, and I wonder how. He has been coming first from basic school straight up to grade six," said Williams.

Over the years she has been actively involved in her son's academic life, providing guidance and ensuring that he knows the importance of a strong educational base. However, 2020 brought challenges that separated the two at a crucial time as the youngster prepared for PEP.

"During his grade five years I found out I was really ill. I was keeping it from him and then one day he said, 'Mommy, something is wrong with you,' because he found the papers with the test results. So I sat him down and talked to him and he turned to me and said, 'Mommy, are you going to die?' I told him everything will be fine," Williams told the Sunday Observer. "I ended up in the hospital and I had to leave him with the principal, Keisha Wisdom. She and her family took good care of him for me and I appreciate that."

Zain Simms with his proud mother, Shelly-Ann Williams, on graduation day.

Though saddened by his mother's illness, Zain remained focused on his studies while being the source of strength his mother needed.

"One day, while in the hospital, my stats were low and I thought I was going to die. Soon after, the principal sent me his report card and when I saw the good grades it's like it gave me life, and I jumped up. That was a reason for me to go on," said Williams.

"Even though my son was worried, he pressed and held on, and through all of that he called me every day to ensure I was doing fine. I decided to fight because I had to be there for my son," she added.

Zain, who will attend Knox College in September, told the Sunday Observer that he was focused on making his mother proud.

"It was very challenging, especially with my mom being ill, but I had to stay focused and stay up at nights. I'm very excited that my hard work paid off. I always manage to excel in my studies and I'm happy that I'm going to Knox, which was my first choice," he said.

The youngster sees his future in the medical field and his principal has no doubt that those aspirations will be achieved.

"He's a very humble, hard-working and focused student. He doesn't entertain failure as he loves to make his school family and immediate family proud. He was a role model at school and I'm positive he will continue on that path. Knox will be happy to have him," said Wisdom.

"His mother is a strong driving force and even in sickness she was still checking up on him from the hospital bed. I'm happy she is here to share in his success," she added.

Williams is eager to see what the future holds for her only child.

"This is just the beginning of great things to be achieved and I'm praying for long life and strength to be with him every step of the way," she said.


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