MONTEGO BAY, St James — Determined to soar to new heights after attaining passes in 10 subjects in this year's sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, St James High School's past student 16-year-old Abigayle Mcgrowder is humbled and grateful for the support she received during the changes caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Mcgrowder, the school's top CSEC performer for 2022, attained eight grade ones in mathematics, English A, social studies, principle of business, principle of accounts, chemistry, physics, and human and social biology, and grade twos in English literature and information technology.
She noted that, with St James High School still operating on the shift system, her attempt at 10 CSEC subjects came with a lot of long hours and extra classes.
While acknowledging her hard work and dedication, the young girl credits her teachers for their role in this accomplishment, pointing out that the pandemic forced educators to seek creative ways to present their lessons.
"In grade 10 we had to do classes online and that was very stressful; but the teachers at my school found different ways to ensure that we were engaged and having fun, so that helped me a lot. It became even more stressful in grade 11 as the time progressed," Mcgrowder shared with the Jamaica Observer.
According to Mcgrowder, her teachers showered her with grace and nurtured her desire to achieve success.
"I was doing 10 subjects [and] my teachers were aware, so they worked around that and helped to make time for me — when they could — with extra classes to ensure that I was able to catch up. Also, it is a shift school so we are only at school half of the time; but while some students had four subjects a day, I had to be juggling six subjects a day, going to classes from 7:00 in the morning until 5:30 in the afternoon. The journey was very tough but I stuck through it and fought to finish strong," added Mcgrowder.
Reminiscing on her earlier days at St James High School, Mcgrowder said she was disappointed about being placed at the secondary institution after completing her primary exit examinations. However, through the support of teachers she blossomed into a confident young girl.
"My journey at the St James High School was one that came by surprise. I wasn't so happy about attending the school but, nonetheless, I still went there and decided that I am going to do my best. In grade seven I met a lot of wonderful teachers who helped to guide me along the way and built my confidence because I was really shy," she said.
Mcgrowder continued, "As I progressed through the years at school I became more outspoken. I was able to talk to the school population without being nervous so the teachers really pushed and helped me to become a strong individual."
Mcgrowder is now enrolled in Herbert Morrison Technical High School's sixth-form programme with the ambition to pursue an education in business.
She is beyond proud to not only have been named a top CSEC performer for this year, but to have made her family and friends happy.
"I didn't have any idea that I could do so many subjects because even some of the teachers said that I took up a lot, but they said that they believed in me and would help to ensure that I pass all of them. They did put out the work and, indeed, I am glad that I was able to make myself happy, my family happy, and also the teachers who pushed out the extra effort happy as well," she told the Observer.
"My mom was more excited than me. She told me that I made her so happy because she didn't have the help that she needed. It was just she and my stepdad, and he took me as his own daughter because my father wasn't doing much. The two of them didn't have any help and it is a lot of us, so the fact that I did all of that and it paid off, they are very happy with the results.
"I would like to thank my teachers for all the hard work they have done. It really means a lot…all the effort through the Saturday and Sunday classes. Even the day before CSEC they were at school studying with us, so I really appreciate the extra effort. I will always be a part of the family even though I am not there any more," said Mcgrowder.
The young girl stated that she hopes to "pay it forward" to other students who are in need of the same type of kindness shown to her by teachers throughout high school.
"I love maths, and in the future I would love to become an accountant and possibly a professional in the computer sciences field. But on the other hand I love helping others, so I want to volunteer at my school to teach any subject that students need help with…preferably maths."