Five years ago, Anique Gray stood in her class at Bishop's High School and vowed to become a natural science scholarship winner.
In 2019, this goal became a reality when Gray was the lone Tobago student to receive an additional scholarship in natural sciences, a feat she found out about in a very comical way.
“I had just reached home late from work, which had been extremely busy, so I didn’t really have much time to receive calls or read my text messages.
"When I opened the door, I saw my mum, Beryl Samuel-Gray, my little sister, Xhane Gray, and my brother, Dmytrii Fraser all sitting in the living room with looks of disappointment all over their faces. The first thing my mom said to me was, ‘Anique did you know that scholarships come out?’
"My heart dropped and my brother continued her sentence: ‘We know that you worked very hard. However, you did not rec.....’"
Before Dmytrii could finish the sentence, Gray said she collapsed.
“My knees gave out with the grief and shock. I swear I was on the verge of fainting
"Then I heard an uproar in laughter and someone tugging at my hand for me to stand up. ‘Anique, Anique... we joking, we joking...You get one, don’t die on we, yuh get one,’ shouted my brother."
It took them a few minutes to convince her otherwise, but Gray said once the news sank in, the entire family jumped and danced with joy.
In an interview with Newsday on Wednesday, Gray said she is proud of her accomplishment but felt Tobago needs to work harder to win more scholarships.
“I feel tremendously honoured and overjoyed to be given one of these prestigious scholarships.
"However, I also feel slightly disappointed that I was one of only two students in Tobago to achieve a national scholarship.”
She added: “Based on my reaction to my family pulling a prank on me, I was actually anticipating the scholarship but suffered a lot of anxiety, especially with the results coming out so much later than usual. I actually had it set as a long-term goal from second form that I wanted to be a natural science scholarship winner and worked very hard toward my goal. So, once the news soaked in, I thought, ‘Wow, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and know that my hard work paid off.'"
She says she didn't win the scholarship all by herself, and many people must share the credit.
The first is her mother, who "motivated me straight throughout this journey, ensuring that I would never overstress myself, and pitch in wherever she can to help me with studying.
"I would also like to thank all the teachers of Bishop's High school and all my class teachers who would have worked hard with me to make sure that I would understand the topics to come, answering the many questions I had about the topics and never losing faith in me.
"Last, and definitely not least, I would like to thank God for answering my continuous prayer for strength and determination to achieve my ultimate high school goal.”
A former pupil of Signal Hill Government Primary School, she believes in well-rounded students, not focusing on school work alone.
“I take part in local community groups such as being a member of the Carib Dixieland Steel Orchestra for seven years.
"I also would have focused on taking part in a lot of co-curricular activities; a youth ambassador for TT with the US Embassy in 2018, a mentor at my school for four years, a prefect and student council (member) at Bishop's, an assistant math teacher at Math House in Tranquility Heights – and the list goes on.” She currently works as a balancing teller at Scotiabank, having decided to take a gap year. Gray plans to enter the medical field, like her mother.
“I would like to pursue the field of medicine and become a medical practitioner because my mum, Beryl Samuel-Gray, is a district health visitor and I love to see how she helped a lot of people in Tobago and contribute to the health of entire communities. I would also like to have that impact on the people around me,” she said.
She hasn't yet singled out a medical specialisation.
“Maybe neurology, cardiology, dermatology or oncology.
"However, I believe I have a calling for oncology since my father died from liver cancer five years ago and I would love to try my best to help families avoid the grief of losing a loved one to terrible cancers.”
To date, she has been accepted at the University of the West Indies, Mona, to begin medical studies in 2020, and has started reviewing the syllabus to know what to expect.
Asked what advice she would give to those still at school, Gray said: “In anything that you do, always do it to the best of your ability.
"This is my main mantra and it was engraved in me by my mum. She explained to me that once you do anything to the best of your ability, no one can stop you.
"Whether it is in school work, in co-curricular activities or even in chores, do it to the best of your ability. This can create a domino effect on the way how you approach anything in life and once God knows you worked hard for it, he will gift it to you in one form or the other.
She also urged schoolchildren to try to develop themselves in different areas.
“I personally believe that an all-rounded student can emerge higher than a strictly academic student any day. This is because in our day and age, a lot of employers are looking for persons with experience in their field, and being all-rounded can help a student begin to develop the qualities that employers need at a very young age – not only in the sense of what the employer needs, but also what the student would need, if they plan to be self-employed.”