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– from ‘illiterate’ child to law student
Angel Stephens’ academic journey has been filled with many challenges. She had missed nursery school due to a period of illness. When she recovered, she was placed in to the primary school system without the foundation laid through nursery school.
Stephens, due to her setback, initially struggled to maintain the academic standards set by the school system but that soon changed as she developed a passion for learning and a determination for success.
Stephens spent most of her formative years in the East Ruimveldt community with her parents and five siblings.
However, her childhood was not like that of the average child. She was taunted frequently by persons in her community and school.
“I was what some would call dunce or illiterate. Given that I had consumed my grandmother’s diabetic tablets and I had missed most of nursery school, I did not have the basic foundation of learning. When I entered Primary School, I did not know the difference between a square and a rectangle. I was not competent in forming letters or identifying numbers. Everyone in my class saw me as the “dunce” child who cried more than often,” the 18-year-old recalled.
Though not having what she described as ‘a fair start’, Stephens said she was able to grasp bit by bit what she missed out, and when she sat what was then called Common Entrance Examinations, she secured a place at the Richard Ishmael Secondary School.
Being repeatedly told of her academic challenges, Stephens said she became an introvert in Secondary school.
“I went through the first three years of Secondary School with deep self-doubt which caused me to be hard on myself. Nevertheless, I saw myself in a new light when I wrote four CXC subjects in fourth form, in which I excelled. This moment was a turning point for me, my self-confidence grew and I wanted to reach for the stars. Going forward into fifth form, I had a new found drive which motivated me to work and study even harder. I even decided to challenge myself and undertake more subjects than was usual for Richard Ishmael Secondary, which is categorized as a B grade school. Previously, in this school, students were only allowed to write the maximum of nine subjects. However, I challenged myself to tip this scale by writing twelve CXC subjects. With the grace of God, I excelled in all these subjects by attaining eight grade ones and four grade twos, and graduated as the valedictorian,” Stephens told Village Voice Guyana.
Her success at the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC)gave her the courage to pursue higher learning. The teenager enrolled at and gained entry to The Bishops’ High School’s Sixth Form programme.
While there for one year, Stephens said she was able to properly determine her career path and upon her completion of Sixth Form, the teenager proceeded to the University of Guyana where she completed one year of the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Sociology) programme.
She is now going to read for a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree at the University.
“I envision myself as a lawyer who aggressively fights for justice regardless of status, creed, and culture. This passion, I must say, stems from me witnessing many injustices not only meted out to different family members, but also individuals in the community where I live. Not to mention those that I would have viewed, or heard about via social media. Owing to all these, I strongly believe that once I apply myself through hard work, commitment and dedication, by the end of my LLB and LEC studies, I will be edified and equipped with the right tools and skills that will change lives and situations for the better and this has become my ultimate goal in life,” the young woman told the Village Voice.
While Stephens has been able to defy the odds, she does not only attribute her success to hard work but also to her belief in God.
“I believe that had it not been for him [God], his love and grace, I would have been lost. It is God who taught me to overcome the many challenges and insecurities I faced. Adding to that, I am passionate about learning new things and undertaking new challenges, especially since I love the fulfillment from achieving,” she said.
The young woman advises those who are experiencing challenges to never give up. “Through my journey I have learnt to never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations, and it is not where we have come from, but where we are going that counts. Additionally, you do not have to be the smartest person out there, but if you put in hard work, results will surely follow. Most importantly, you have to learn to put God first,” Stephens told Village Voice Guyana.