BVI News

Top student turns stigma into success

Kierra John. Photo provided

By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff

Kierra John, an aspiring hotel manager who defied the odds to top the secondary school leaving exam and bring pride to a school often stigmatized without justification, is somewhat of a maverick.

In other words, her mind is not yoked to the traditional way of doing things.

She is an independent thinker whose knack for using customer service to create beaming smiles is bound to secure her place in British Virgin Islands hospitality.

To fulfill that dream, Kierra opted to leave the traditional Elmore Stoutt High School and instead pursue studies at the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies (VISTS).

It was a tough decision, considering that VISTS is frowned upon by many.

“It was hard making that decision to go over to the [technical] school because of the stigma that was attached to it,” Kierra told BVI News Online, adding that her mother Dorna Wheatley encouraged her to ignore the naysayers and focus on her career choice.

“My mom and I spoke and she was like ‘if this is what you really really want to become, you should [attend VISTS] despite what other people my think; despite the stigma that was attached’. I eventually went because of my passion; I really enjoy working in the hospitality industry.”

When the secondary school leaving exam results were made public yesterday, it became clear that Kierra amassed a Grade Point Average of a whopping 4.3 and had outperformed all other students across the BVI – including those from traditional high schools usually regarded as the crème de la crème.

Kierra said her accomplishment does not only belong to her; it also belongs to the technical school that has been working assiduously to project a positive image.

“My principal [Germaine Scatliffe] is very very proud of me knowing that we can now have our school out there in such a positive way. It’s no longer the ‘dumb’ school; we can do great things. I am really happy that I made that impact,” Kierra further said.

“The school had a stigma attached to it. But we can make it what we want it to be. Once we work hard, we can accomplish anything.”

VISTS is also basking in what, with due respect, is a rare accomplishment for it. Within hours of learning about Kierra’s success, the Government-owned institution took to social media to dub itself “home of the top student in the territory”. It also congratulated Kierra, and declared that “things are getting better”.

A lot of sacrifice

Many can readily identify the radiance associated with Kierra’s enviable academic feat.

But, beyond the glow, there was a lot of sacrifice.

Kierra and her father Oskin John. Photo provided

“There were a lot of sacrifices because, whilst I was preparing for these final exams, I also had to study for my CSEC subjects. So it was a lot of sacrifices and a lot of long nights trying to make sure that I remember what the syllabuses required us to cover. So, yes, it was a lot of work,” Kierra further told BVI News Online.

She expressed gratitude to the persons who encouraged her to persevere.

“It has been really challenging and, without the motivation from my parents, my sister [Chandre John] and God, I wouldn’t have made it. I kept praying for perseverance to endure to the end, and now that I have accomplished, I am really proud of myself and everyone who has supported me.”

“I am elated,” Kierra said, adding that the subjects in which she performed best were Mathematics, Customer Service, Entrepreneurship, Financial Services, Tourism, Integrated Science, and Physical Education.

Kierra intends to attend the University of Central Florida to further her hospitality studies, but she will first work for a year.

“I am taking a year off, and I am going to work. I prefer to work in the hospitality industry again to gain experience and exposure so I can have a feel of what I am actually going to do when I go abroad,” she explained.

“I really love the tourism/hospitality industry. I like to interact with guests – seeing that smile on their faces.”

Kierra’s mother, Wheatley, said her daughter has a natural knack for hospitality, and that is shown especially when the youngster is involved in the family businesses.

“I could actually see that feel for customer service – for the hospitality industry, in her. It seems natural for her to go into that industry with what she already has which is raw talent, in my opinion,” the mother said while she expressed optimism that her daughter will be a shining light in hospitality when she is fully trained in the technical side of the industry.

She further told BVI News Online that she too is ecstatic about the sterling contribution Kierra has been making at VISTS – also through debating and other national competitions.

“I would say she (Kierra) brought the school a long way in terms of getting it out there and getting that stigma away from it. After all of those sacrifices that she made, if she is top in the territory, we are glad to be a part of that. We are glad that we get the technical school out there so that people know it’s not just the academic side but the technical side that is important – depending on what your passion is,” added Kierra’s mother. The youngster’s father, Oskin John, also has been involved in the sacrifice and the celebration.

Kierra and her mother Dorna Wheatley

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