Zaria Walters did not make the top ten in this year’s Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE), but in her eyes, she is number one.
The student of The Ifill School who gained 51 in English and 25 in Mathematics, passed for the Princess Margaret Secondary School, which is a major accomplishment for someone who has struggled with dyslexia throughout school.
“I did it and I would tell other children don’t worry about what other people would say, just do your own thing and have a good time doing what you have to do,” Zaria told Barbados TODAY.
She admitted that she faced many challenges while preparing for the July 5 examination and had to put in some extra study time, take a break from playing games, and commit to trying her best.
“I feel good to have done what I did. I am proud that I passed. I thank my principal Akil Ifill because he helped me to get over my fears of being scared of people and he helped me to learn sports that I never learned.
“He is doing the online school, so he is doing the video and other stuff to make me and the students understand properly. What you can’t understand, you can go back to the videos and try to understand it,” a proud Zaria said.
And while she is excited to begin her secondary school journey, she shared that her parents Carl and Natyra Walters were also extremely happy with what she has accomplished.
“My parents are very proud of me,” the young lady said.
Her father told Barbados TODAY she had given up on school when she was six years old because she was being bullied.
“We moved her from the school because she was experiencing anxiety attacks from not wanting to go to school. She would be doing homework and start trembling because she didn’t want to make mistakes. She basically said something that implied the teacher would have had her in that frame of mind.
“Then I just happened to come across a child who was attending the Ifill Summer Camp and I then put Zaria there. We sent her to that camp and at the end of that three weeks of camp, she was happy to go school again.
“At the end of that entire summer she was happy and then Akil indicated that he was looking to open a school and that is how Zaria ended up at The Ifill School. She was extremely happy. We watched our child grow from being afraid to go to school to ‘oh shoot, I can’t miss school’. For us that was a drastic change that gave us and her a peace of mind,” he said.
Walters said his daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia at The Ifill School and had to be placed in a special programme to assist her learning.
“Zaria has come a long way. I am very happy she passed the examination. The videos on The Ifill School portal really helped her because she was able to go back until she grasped the concepts,” he said, noting that he remains committed to his child’s educational and social development.
Meanwhile, a pleased Ifill said that while every student should be celebrated, no one understood how much Zaria had to overcome to get this far.
“She had significant social anxiety, she was not very physically active and she did not like school before coming to us. She was very quiet and did not talk. She would struggle to retain information. Well, because of our online programme, she was able to revisit the work continuously anytime she wanted.
“She also attended the Ifill lessons on Saturdays. Her parents trusted us with delivering a programme that would suit her specific challenges. Zaria worked hard, she really put in the work. She has come a long way and I am extremely proud of her,” Ifil said.
The principal added that Walters did not participate in any sporting activities until she began her studies at the private institution.
“She was here with us from the very beginning. She learnt to play volleyball and now she wants to play volleyball for Princess Margaret. I am so proud of how far she has come. Please join me in congratulating Zaria on her progress and success. Za Za, I am proud of you, sweetheart,” Ifill shared on the school’s Facebook page.
“Carl and Natyra, continue to nurture her and ensure that she continues to smile and shine.”