MONTEGO BAY, St James — Jo'Anna Hill is a force to be reckoned with.
Jo'Anna, 16, a recent graduate of Montego Bay High School, has received 36 academic awards since she was first enrolled in school at age two.
According to her mother, Annette Hill, the young woman has always shown signs that she is gifted.
"She started reading at 18 months old and she loved watching television. We realised that after a few episodes she could recite the entire episode. If we gave her a book, up to three years above her level…within a few days she would be able to recite the entire book, hardly missing a word from it," Annette told the Jamaica Observer.
"The only thing she really did slowly was walk. She walked when she was one year old," she added.
Annette went on to state that her daughter's abilities were immediately recognised when the family visited the Mount Alvernia Preparatory School to have her enrolled in their pre-K programme.
"The day when we went to enrol her, the test was on the board and she just started to read and answer the questions. They said that she couldn't be in pre-K, she had to go to kindergarten, so that is where she started. That is why she has now graduated, she should actually be in grade 10, because she has just turned 16," Annette explained.
Over the years, Jo'Anna has blossomed academically and in her choices of extra-curricular activities. She was awarded first place during the 4H Parish Achievement Day for public speaking in the third grade, and while she switched schools to Howard Cooke Primary, Jo'Anna did not slow down.
In the fourth grade Jo'Anna became entered the Jamaican Junior Mathematical Olympiad and placed third in her grade category. She also placed first in her class at school, Annette told the Sunday Observer. She maintained that momentum throughout her primary education and was ultimately awarded the highest regional average in the then Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in 2018.
Jo'Anna also received the highest GSAT average in mathematics and was named student of the year. She also became a member of the Montego Bay High School quiz team.
"In grade seven she joined the School Challenge Quiz team and she started playing in grade nine. As a matter of fact, this year was one of the first times that they went to the third round, and she was very instrumental in getting them there," said Annette.
Seemingly maintaining her relationship with the Jamaica Mathematical Olympiad, Jo'Anna went on to win the competition twice in her high school career. Though her most recent stint saw her placing second in the grade 11 category, Jo'Anna was chosen as one of four Jamaican students to represent the island at the XXV Central American and Caribbean Mathematical Olympiad (OMCC) held in El Salvador last month. She was the lone female on the team.
Annette told the Sunday Observer that her daughter was ecstatic after learning that she was chosen to be a part of the team.
"It was just exceptional because she was the only girl. We were kind of hesitant being that she was the lone female there, so it was a little scary for us, but we talked about it and we were satisfied with…the arrangements. She enjoyed it, too. She was happy," she said.
"She is an overachiever and she is happy about it, but sometimes she beats up on herself to say that she could have done better. She is always looking to achieve 100 per cent. She is always looking to go to the highest as God would have her because we are strong believers in Jesus Christ. We couldn't have done this by ourselves, we trusted God and he has been helping us greatly," Annette added.
At the same time, Jo'Anna's father, Andre, spoke highly of his child, who is hoping to pursue a career as "an applied mathematician or a machine learning engineer.
"I am elated. It was a lot of work…and she took to the discipline. I had to wake her up at 3:00 am every Saturday because they went to UWI [The University of the West Indies] to train for three months. The dedication was great. I am glad to see that she put her head to something, the stick-to-it-iveness was there and she got the results that she desired. We are proud of that," he said.
Having completed her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, the family is now looking forward to the next step of Jo'Anna's journey.
"She did 10 subjects; We are waiting for the results. And because of her age we are going to send her to sixth form. Her dream since doing GSAT is to go to Campion College, so we are looking at that now," said Annette.