IT was an absolute joy for the parents of Jayden Walker who overcame a lisp which threatened to impact his academics, making him their third son in a row to earn a place at Campion College.
Jayden’s parents, Margaret and Glenroy Walker, beamed with pride on Friday as they watched their youngest son collect a scholarship from the Guardian Group Foundation for being the top-performing male child of a Guardian Life policyholder.
While Jayden copped the award for best-performing male of a policyholder, Aaron St John Waugh of Jessie Ripoll Primary School was selected for the prestigious National Top Boy award. He will also be heading to Campion College. Shannon-Elise Barrett of Kensington Primary School won the National Top Girl award and will also matriculate to Campion.
For this year’s Guardian Foundation annual Primary Exit Profile (PEP) scholarship awards — the 17th running — the foundation disbursed $5.6 million in scholarships and grants for the 2023/2024 academic school year.
Both national champions received scholarships worth $1 million each. The top-performing son and daughter of policyholders each received $350,000. There were other sectional awards.
Apart from the lisp, which Jayden hasn’t yet fully conquered, the COVID-19 pandemic created a challenge for the 12-year-old.
“I am the youngest of three brothers who all went to the Bright Beginnings Educational Center in Cedar Grove, Portmore. The oldest brother, Glenroy, is 10 years older than I am. The second brother Kyle is two years older than me. Both brothers did very well in their matriculation exams to high school. To me, this was more than a dare, it was a challenge. I had to respond when my time came,” Walker said, at the Guardian Group Foundation’s Annual Scholarship and Grant Awards at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
Further, Walker said the journey to his PEP exams was no easy feat, but thankfully he had parents who were invested in his growth and teachers who could spot his weak areas and work on improving them.
“The path to exams was not as easy for me as my siblings before me. I had to deal with the onset of the COVID-19. Being used to face-to-face learning, I did not do as well in grade four. Then came grade five, when face-to-face learning returned. I was fortunate to have got teachers who were able to recognise my deficiencies and took steps to correct them. It was a partnership between my parents and the school. My parents ensured that I attended all extra lessons and Saturday classes. I started to improve and my grade reflected it.
“I then became aware that just like my older siblings, I could do it too. My parents never let me forget that only my best is good enough. I had only to recognise my ability and act on it. I gave the exam my best shot and when the results came around, mine was equally as good as my older brothers. I performed better than 97 per cent of the test-takers this year and earned me a place. My parents have been bombarded with inquiries of how they manged to achieve three in a row at a school like Campion College,” Walker added.
His parents, Margaret and Glenroy, spoke very highly of their son and were proud of him for overcoming his challenges through determination.
Margaret said, “I am very proud. I have two older sons, and he is a role model to them. I have never had to correct him more than once. I think it is the discipline at home that caused it.”
His father Glenroy shared that he always reminded Jayden he could achieve success despite obstacles.
“He did it and I am proud because I always told him that he has it within him, even in times when he doubted himself. His brothers did it and there was no way he couldn’t do it,” he said.
Tsahai Clarke, the winner in the female category for best-performing child of a Guardian Life policyholder, also received a placement at Campion College.
For Tsahai, PEP was like a video game.
“My journey to PEP was like a video game. There were many obstacles and as I progressed the levels got tougher. I always had the support I needed to help me conquer each level. The Bread of Life Christian Academy, of which I am a past student, played a huge role in my success. My family, teachers, and peers encouraged and motivated me to keep going. I implore the 2023 PEP students to let us not only dream big, but let us dream grand. Let us not only reach for the mountain tops, but let us reach for the stars,” Tsahai said.