Last year’s winner of the Richard Stoute Teen Talent Competition, Cherece Richards, is on top again.
This time, the 16-year-old is showing that she has more than just a powerful voice, creating history by gaining the most Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) passes of any student who has ever attended the Frederick Smith Secondary School.
Richards made herself and the Trents, St James educational institution proud when she sat three exams last year and another nine this year and attained 12 CXC passes, including Grade 1s in English A [distinction], Social Studies [distinction], Principal of Business, Theatre Arts and Electronic Document and Preparation Management [distinction) and Physical Education [distinction]. She earned Grade 2s in English Literature, Office Administration, Integrated Science, Spanish and Mathematics. Her only Grade 3 was in Biology.
“This is unheard of in the school’s history,” principal Jefferson Phillips told Barbados TODAY. “And she has done it before upper fifth, when students usually get back most of their CXCs at St James. The school is extremely proud of Cherece; we are elated.”
“This is a big accomplishment for the school. It goes to show if you are determined and focused and hardworking, it doesn’t matter the school you go to, you can succeed. Once the right support system is in place and you are determined, you will succeed,” he added.
Richards returned to Barbados on Wednesday after visiting her father in England, where she was born, said she was excited about her accomplishment.
She said it proved that hard work, dedication and a support system at home and school had worked in her favour.
Richards did not sit the Common Entrance Examination to gain entry to Frederick Smith Secondary. She was allocated to the schools, which was then St James Secondary, by the Ministry of Education.
She recalled shedding tears after hearing horrible stories about the school from people who discovered she would be starting classes there in second form.
“Some people made it sound so bad. I think some people make it out to be something that it’s not,” she said during an interview at her St Thomas home.
The teenager defended the school, saying it has some of the most dedicated teachers who often go above and beyond the call of duty to work with students who show a desire to learn.
“I don’t think I would have achieved as much if I was at a different school in terms of academics and singing. They [teachers] spend a lot of time helping you and finding extra time, even in their off hours or breaks, to work with you if you are interested in learning,” Richards said.
But her road to academic success was not an easy one. Just as she had to work hard on enhancing her natural singing ability, she had to go the extra mile to prepare for the examinations, staying after the end of the school day to work with teachers to strengthen her weak areas. Though tired at times, Richards said she had her eyes on the prize and was willing to do whatever it took to get it.
The songbird, who has a penchant for gospel and inspirational music, spoke about how she longs to see her name on billboards across the world. She has released a single, Door of Hope, and believes that dream may become a reality one day.
In the meantime, she is working towards becoming a dietician, nutritionist and entrepreneur.
“I plan to go back to school in upper fifth because I want to be a dietician and need to do over Biology. And I have to pick up Chemistry and do Accounts. So now that I have the other subjects out of the way, I will get to focus on those,” Richards said.
Her mother, Anita Fenty is extremely proud of her daughter who she said strives for excellence in everything she does.
Although saying that Richards was not an average student, she said the teenager could not have accomplished what she had without the help of her school family.
“I think the teachers take her on like if they are her mother and she loves that. If they say to her ‘I believe you can move a mountain’, guess what? Cherece is going to move that mountain,” Fenty said.
“One thing I can say about that school is that whether it’s the janitor, the teacher or the headmaster, they are always pushing and encouraging her.”
Richards, who was also the winner of two bronze and silver awards at National Independence Festival of Creative Arts, also won in the soloist category of the school’s music festival last year.
Principal Phillips described Richards as a role model student who is involved every aspect of school life, including athletics, singing and speech competitions.
Meantime, the teenager who ensures she is at church almost every Sunday to give God praise, said He was her main tower of strength and she just wants to be an inspiration to other young people.