Miss Tobago Heritage Personality 2023 Melinda Alfred, 20, is no stranger to working hard to achieve her goals. However, her performance in the 2023 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) ranks among her greatest achievements.
Alfred stunned even herself as the top performing arts student in the Caribbean, and one of ten Tobago students who achieved a place on the merit list.
Describing her reaction to the achievement on Wednesday, Alfred, who is now studying at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, said: "Ecstatic!
“It was honestly a sigh of relief too. I’ve been aiming for the merit list after my friends kept feeding me with the idea of being on there. I’m extremely grateful to have such supportive persons in my life who believes in my capabilities even when I doubt myself.”
She said when she received the news, her emotions were rather mixed.
“I cried, I laughed, and I cried some more. My reaction in itself was lagged. I recall feeling the need to scream out with excitement.”
She said while the result wasn’t expected, it was something she had hoped for.
"I worked hard towards the idea of making it on the merit list, and the constant motivation and reassurance from my friends had me believing I was in fact making the top ten.”
The Canaan native recalled how two Signal Hill Secondary teachers, where she did Form six, broke the news to her three weeks ago.
“Honestly, I’d been checking the CXC portal for the release of the merit list till I just dismissed it entirely. The day results were released I was seated when I got a call from Miss Caruth-Jack.
"Nothing seemed suspicious, seeing that Miss Caruth-Jack is one of those teachers you consider family, so I thought it was one of her usual check-ups. She then went, 'Hey Mel,' enthusiastically as she proceeded to add Miss Jenelle Moore to the call as well. Again, this isn’t at all suspicious in any way or form. Now my two teachers are here giggling, so I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.”
She said prior to the call, she was about to search the CSEC music list to screenshot and post on social media that her little cousin Sumayah had placed in the top ten.
“Geeking over that, I was mentioning it to Miss Moore and Miss Caruth-Jack, telling them how proud I am of her. They then proceeded to say to each other, 'She doesn’t know.'
"Now, intrigued, I said, 'Wait – know what exactly?'
"They screamed, 'Melinda, you came first! You came first on the merit list for performing arts.' I was in utter shock; my eyes started tearing up with swiftness as I listened to my teachers stating how proud they were of me.”
She is also grateful to Performing Arts teacher Olimall Gordon-Holder, whom she learned from while attending Scarborough Secondary from Forms one to five.
“I’d like to highlight Mrs Gordon-Holder for being my foundation in the arts; she was my theatre arts teacher in Scarborough Secondary from Forms one to three. However, the subjects I chose (for CSEC) all gravitated towards social work or psychology, seeing as I had an interest in those fields."
She said she began to regret not adding theatre as a subject.
She said Gordon-Holder accepted her as her student mere months before her first exam. “Miss Gordon has always believed in my ability as a performer; she also hired me as an actress for numerous occasions. I am forever grateful to her.”
She hailed her Signal Hill Performing Arts teacher Antineil Blackman as her driving force. "She taught us far beyond the curriculum; because of Miss Blackman I learned to get out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. She’s also the reason I decided to promise myself I’d go beyond my limits and do things I would often be too anxious to try.
"I’ve always been cautious and calculated with everything I do – I still am – but I’m taking chances now, and because of those chance I’ve achieved so much.”
She credited her family including her cousin Kimmi Potts for her success.
“Kimmi is the reason I love the performing arts. Growing up, Kimmi has always been my role model till this day. When Kimmi came back from university during vacation, she’d often play theatre games with me and we’d often re-enact scenarios in front my Aunty Marcelline. But when the dancing started, I was never good at getting the steps on time or at all, even, but Kimmi was just perfect!”
She said Potts encouraged her to add theatre as a ninth CSEC subject when she had doubts.
Her friends were not forgotten.
“My friends encouraged me every step of the way; my friends empathised with me as I cried over performing arts. I know it was hard and I know for a fact they all aided to this achievement as well,l and I want to say I am forever thankful and grateful, God allowed me to have them in my life.”
Currently pursuing a bachelor’s in social work at UWI, Alfred hopes to later merge social work and the performing arts as a form of therapy.
“Right now, my focus is on my degree and making myself and family proud. I’m learning to take things one step at a time and not rush it too much – momentum is key.”
She said as the Miss Heritage Personality, she travelled to New York on August 20 to take part in its Tobago Day celebrations, but her other responsibilities as queen have had to be put on hold owing to her studies.