She is the second of her siblings to receive a Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) open scholarship, but for 19-year-old Treverra James it came as no surprise.
In 2017, her elder sister Safiya James, another past student of Bishop’s High School, was awarded an open scholarship, and is in Ireland studying medicine.
In an interview with Newsday on Friday, the day after Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced this year's scholarships, James said she knew she was up to winning one.
“For us right now, we’ve always had a tradition of excellence in the family. This is something that cousins have achieved, family members from aunts and uncles would have achieved. So for us, the younger generation, it was always something that we knew we were capable of.”
But James, who lives at Signal Hill, was still overjoyed by the news and remains appreciative.
“I feel very elated. I am very happy to have been awarded this scholarship. I know that I would have worked hard, I would have had guidance from my teachers, my parents – and for that I am truly grateful."
She said the reduction in the number of scholarships awarded put her performance in context.
"This is really an achievement that I really know should be celebrated. For one Tobagonian to be awarded a scholarship is really an awesome feat and I hope that in future I inspire many more to do the same.”
She is the lone scholarship recipient from Tobago, winning a National Open Scholarship in technical studies.
“They announced that it was one scholarship winner, and it was at Bishop's High School, Tobago, which is my school, so it really hit home. I was like, ‘Wow, this could be me' – and so I actually went for a run around the block to help relieve some stress, some anxiety. And when I came home, my mother would have told me, so it was a very surreal moment.
"It was something I was really excited about and I am really grateful to my parents, to God, to my teachers who would have all guided me and helped me prepare.”
James said the preparation amidst the global pandemic, coupled with the new online teaching platforms, taught her she needed to adapt her time management and be disciplined.
"I always sought to use my syllabi to ensure that I completed specific learning objectives and then I would go to my teachers for them to help me fill in gaps. It would have allowed me to really put my best foot forward. These teachers would have been both in school, out of school and even regionally.
"In addition, my involvement in extra-curricular activities such as netball, dance and even my involvement in voluntary organisations really provided me the opportunity for time management. So when it was finally time for me to come back to my studies, I was really able to be dedicated and I was really able to focus and do my best.”
She is looking forward to "all the possibilities and all the opportunities that (winning) an open scholarship means for me in my tertiary-education choice."
But she would like to be a dietician, because of “just observations about the number of persons suffering with non-communicable diseases in Tobago and for me, my passion in food and nutrition. This is my way in which I can help give back to the communities that helped shaped me. This is my way in which I can impact Tobago in the long term.”
This is the first time that Bishop's High School has included food and nutrition at the CAPE level.
“I was the only student at that time. It was very nerve-racking, But I had the support from my teachers, from my principal; they were always there to guide me, they provided a lot of support, a lot of information.”
She has been in contact with the school since getting the news.
“I have spoken to Miss Ramnarine (Bishop's principal). Miss Ramnarine was right there on the phone when I found out. I called all my teachers, they all knew, we had a chat on the phone, and it was very good. I am very grateful to them all.”
James’ father, Trevor, said he too was elated.
“It is a feeling as a project manager when you put a plan in place and it is executed successfully, you can only feel good about it. Kudos to my daughter, she has done extraordinarily well given the fact of the changes in the whole scholarship system.”
He called on parents to set a standard of excellence.
“I think across the system, that is what is lacking to compete in Trinidad. and as a Tobagonian, with the small catchment that we have, there is a need for extra support, there is a need for a greater understanding of how the examinations are run and I think that is some of the benefits that we have given with the experience of my wife in the whole examination correcting system.”
Treverra’s mother Sherra Carrington-James, a secondary school principal, said it was a day of mixed emotions.
“In as much as I was elated and relieved that finally the scholarships had been awarded and that she was a recipient, it was also my deceased mother’s birthday. So it was an emotional moment, not just for me but for the family as well and a certain amount of validation came from this.”
She noted that the accomplishment was no singular achievement, as it involved “the teachers at school, my investment, an aunt who is a biology major in Trinidad, anther aunt on her father’s side who is into library and a lot of research and support.
"This child’s village extended beyond Bishop’s High School. Support came from Scarborough Secondary and from Ardenne High School in Jamaica – so it was not a closed option. The virtual platform presented all that diversity for support for Traverra, and I really need to thank them profusely.”