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Story and photos by Shahein Fitzpatrick

Two youths who overcame the odds to graduate from secondary school have spoken about the obstacles they faced, what life is like for them in their communities, and their vision for the future.

Isaiah Semple, from Golden Grove, and Jayden Holding, from Hatton, said they have known each other since primary school, have grown up together and are still friends today. 

Both 17, they recently completed their education at Ottos Comprehensive School.

“Being at Otto’s is alright nuh but people up there they like fighting, drugs at school, some people bring cutlass to school, knives, and all kinds of things,” Holding said.

Semple explained, “You have to like, stay away from people at that school.”

Both young men said it was a great feeling of achievement to finish.

Semple continued, “I always think I wouldn’t finish school nuh. Third form coming up, I had a bad attitude. I never used to like to do work and so, but after a while I changed. I started doing my work and getting grades up.”

The teens went on to share that they were often told they would make nothing of their lives because of the communities that they are from and the school they attended. 

“People such as the teachers,” Holding explained.

Semple agreed, saying, “Some teachers would say I not going to finish school.”

“They have teachers that already came into our class and call us dunce, just so,” said Holding.

The young men told Observer they would cut grass and do odd jobs to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

They explained that they work as a team, sometimes walking more than a mile to cut grass and occasionally working on more than three yards a day. 

Their evenings are spent catching crabs, going to the pond to swim, catching fish to cook – and dreaming of a brighter future. Holding says his goal is to be a singer, while Semple wants to become a football player and travel the world.

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