September 15, 2006

Karen Cornwall and Alyssa Grant have been given a second chance and they both embraced it tightly.

Both took wrong roads early in their life. They became pregnant and thought the world was over until they were given the opportunity to return to secondary school.{{more}}

Karen, 18, of Murray’s Village, grabbed all of her seven subjects at this year’s CXC examinations while attending the St Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua.

Today, Karen is a picture of a person with a purpose in life.

She told SEARCHLIGHT that she always believed that she could attain her subjects despite having a young child to raise.

Her success was not without a price. Studying for CXC was a rocky road.

“I had to endure long hours of studying and sometimes sleepless nights, sometimes I had to start studying when my child went to sleep” Karen recounted.

Before she got pregnant, Karen was not exactly an outstanding student. She did not put her best foot forward and generally procrastinated most of the time.

“After I had the baby I stopped following the wrong kinds of company and started focusing on my education and future.”

Cornwall attributed an enormous amount of her success to Bassy Alexander, who encouraged her to take the step and go back to school.

Karen, who is eyeing a career in the field of business, encouraged young persons to put their best foot forward and place God at the top of their list.

“Think of the future, not just the present and the past, you have plenty to live for,” she said.

Alyssa Grant’s story is not very different from that of Karen’s. She got pregnant when she was 15 years old and at the time a student at the Girls’ High School.

Alyssa said that she was very thankful for the second chance and tackled six subjects and passed five at CXC.

It was an uphill battle considering that she was out of school for sometime and then had single parenting responsibilities.

Alyssa told SEARCHLIGHT that she carried a huge burden at first when she had the baby and had to quit school. She recounted times of hardship but never let that daunt her from achieving her goals.

“When I attended the Girl’s’ High School I wasted a lot of my time, but when I got the chance to go back to school I took full grasp of the opportunity,” said Alyssa.

Stopping at times, to catch her words and fighting back tears, Alyssa relayed fond memories of her grandmother who played a very instrumental part in her success.

“I can remember clearly that I sat exams the same day that granny died. I knew at that point I owed her a lot to do my best.”

A future sociologist, Alyssa, said that she wanted to take on a career in this field because she would like to help young persons with similar situations that she faced. She also took the time to encourage young persons to abstain from sex and put their education as the main priorities in life.

The Gender Affairs Division within the Ministry of National Mobilisation started the thrust in 2002 for the re-entry of teen parents into secondary schools. A policy paper was also presented by the Gender Affairs Division (GAD) last week at a press conference, held to have the public’s view on the re-entry of teen parents in different Secondary Schools around the nation.

A total of 41 students have benefited from the program between 2002 and 2004. There are presently 28 students enrolled in the programme. Of these 24 are teenage mothers and four are young dropouts attempting to re-enter the formal education system. In total 32 teen mothers have graduated from high school between 2004 and 2006. Most of these teenaged mothers receive assistance from Social Services.