ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Yohan Advani is a confirmed planetarian with designs on outer space, while the vivacious 12-year-old Leah-Simone Powell is an empathetic patriot with a fiercely competitive spirit.
These outstanding youngsters, while clearly different in many ways, are now united by their scholastic feat of emerging ahead of 36,078 students islandwide who earlier this year sat the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examination in pursuit of coveted places in the most prestigious secondary schools on the island.
Their efforts were rewarded with not just placement at their school of first choice (Campion College), but with scholarships valued at $1 million each from Guardian Group Foundation.
This will be disbursed in increments of $200,000 annually over the five years required to complete a programme of secondary school certification.
Both students were understandably elated by this news. "I feel very happy and grateful to be able to receive the scholarship,"said Leah-Simone.
For his part, Yohan offered restrained, yet intense, appreciation. "I am very excited to get this scholarship, and I am extremely honoured. It was an awesome surprise. It feels like a dream come true."
Another element of commonality was the clear presence of diligent parenting. For Leah-Simone's mother Tracia Powell the prestigious award was validation that hard work brings just rewards. Yohan's father Sunil Advani agrees, citing intangible bonuses to this financial windfall.
"Thanks to the digital age we live in, everybody now knows Yohan and his family. We are now also part of the Guardian Life family," said Advani.
Both families accept that success required them to facilitate the learning styles of each child to stimulate superior outcomes.
"Leah- Simone has always been an active learner. She is stimulated through reasoning and discussion. She is competitive both at school and at home [with her brother]. She is fiercely independent, so we don't hover like helicopters but as keen, quiet observers," Powell explained.
Advani describes his son as well behaved and obedient.
"He's a very good listener and a fast learner. If it gets hard to understand, he will persevere, going over it again and again."
In practical terms, both families intensified the existing routine of each child in pursuit of excellence.
Yohan routinely prioritised homework right after school to avoid sleep deprivation. "I never stayed up late. I worked progressively harder to complete the syllabus well ahead of exams."
While at Reach Academy, Leah-Simone took weekly tests in all five subjects and extra lessons four days per week to revise and test her progress.
"Another weekly extra class tackled mental ability in study groups," said Leah-Simone as she declared that preparing for PEP was stress-free despite the tight schedule.
Not so with Yohan in his time at NEST Education in Montego Bay. Basic mental ability and verbal reasoning were initially perplexing, but he prevailed.
Even as Yohan and Leah-Simone settle in for the new school year, they have sights firmly set on the future. Yohan wants to help save planet Earth but is still mulling over the options. "I think about solar and wind energy, dams, geothermal electricity, carbon capture," and that's just his public service.
His full-time occupaton will be either aerospace engineering or gaming. "Maths, physics, and coding are my favourite subjects, hence my current career goals," he explained.
Leah-Simone is leaving her options open, focusing instead on her core philosophies and habits. "Maintaining good grades up to the college level while also having fun through proper time management. I'm also committed to enhancing my community and country through service."
Both families stress the significance of this investment in quality education.
"These scholarships will help our daughter become a more rounded individual, engender a spirit of volunteerism. I hope this award will encourage other children to give of their best," said Powell.
"It is an honour to be affiliated with the Guardian Foundation, which is committed to enriching the lives of Jamaicans," added Advani.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the Guardian Foundation has honoured the National Top Boy and National Top Girl for outstanding performances in the PEP to help underwrite the cost of high school education.
"This initiative is a very important activity within a suite of programmes under the Foundation's pillar of support for education.
"It's just another gesture as we once again demonstrate our mantra of Love, Care and Serve. To ensure greater access to these funds, these scholarships are awarded to top performers who are not the recipients of any other scholarship. The awardees are selected by the Ministry of Education and Youth," said Annette Atkinson, senior manager of the Guardian Group.