By Theresa Goodwin
Although burning the midnight oil to study required downing a few cans of energy drinks to resist the urge to sleep, 20-year-old Chloe Zi Hua Yang was determined to expand her knowledge and achieve her goals.
Her long nights of studying and being forced to transition to a different type of learning due to the Covid pandemic resulted in spending less time with friends and more indoors.
However, producing the best performance in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and being named the Island Scholar for 2020 made her sacrifices worthwhile.
It was a double celebration as Yang, who attended St Anthony’s Secondary School, became the institution’s first student to earn the prestigious title.
The Cedar Grove school, which established its own A-levels Department five years ago, is the first school outside the Antigua State College (ASC) to produce an Island Scholar.
Education Director Clare Browne made the disclosure earlier this week, explaining that the delay in the announcement was due to queries in results that had to be handled by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
Yang, who is currently studying at the Toronto University in Canada, said she was in a supermarket when she got the telephone call from a former teacher at St Anthony’s.
She said her initial reaction was to “sing and dance” until she remembered she was at the grocery shop.
“At the grocery store, I tried to contain my excitement because I did not want to cause a scene. I had to keep all that excitement, but I was really, really happy,” she told Observer.
“I knew that I was always happy and content with the grades I had gotten. I never knew it would have reached the level where I would receive the title Island Scholar,” Zang said.
Preparing for the exams, she said, was difficult at first as it was marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, disruptions within the school system, and uncertainty in terms of the format of the exams that year.
Nevertheless, she persevered with the help of her teachers and parents.
Yang is now pursuing studies in Commerce Accounting with a major in Economics. She is involved in various clubs that are attached to the university and even helps fellow students in need of tutoring.
Amid all of this, she still finds time to let her hair down, figuratively speaking, pointing out that taking a mental break is important.
“I try to leave blocks in my schedule, blocking out time, because I am going to go out with friends or I am going to have that self-care moment and every weekend I will block out some time for that,” Yang said, explaining that she met most of her friends through her classes.
Faculty members at St Anthony’s are equally elated with Yang’s achievement.
School Principal Joann Boulos-Callias recalled to Observer that she was dancing, singing and waving a flag when she got the news from education officials.
The headmistress said it came as no surprise to her, explaining that Yang had always been a diligent and hardworking student who would seek out her tutors every chance she got to ensure that she fully grasped what was being taught.
The educator said at times, when Yang’s fellow students were on break, the Antiguan national could be found in the classroom working or running down the hallway behind a teacher asking for something to be explained.
“Chloe was a good student; she was not only about the academics. She came to us in second form and completed the rest of her studies with us and it was almost a natural progression for her before travelling abroad.
“She got herself so involved in everything it was wonderful to have her,” Boulos-Callias said.
Head of the A-Levels Department at St Anthony’s, Lenore Dunnah, also explained, “We are exceptionally proud of Chloe, she buckles down, she is very determined. There were times when she even tried to pull her classmates along. She is very intrinsically motivated, she just wants to excel and do well, so seeing her reach here is very rewarding,” Dunnah said.
As Island Scholar, Yang is set to receive EC$20,000 per annum from the Board of Education towards her tertiary education.
She said she intends to return home to give back to Antigua and Barbuda after completing her studies.