Staying positive amid financial challenges and transportation woes is paying off for David Burnett, who recently attained 11 CSEC subjects from the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
To top it all off, he achieved the highest grade possible (Grade One) in eight of the subjects – Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geography, Mathematics, Spanish, Agriculture, as well as Human and Social Biology. He got Grade Two in the other three subjects, including English A.
“I believe that hard work and consistency is the key in succeeding,” the 17-year-old said, adding that he intends to study at the Florida Institute of Technology in the United States.
His goal is to work as an aerospace engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an independent agency of the US federal government responsible for the civilian space programme, as well as aeronautics and space research.
That’s a big dream for the teen, who ends up traveling to and from school while many of his peers are resting in bed.
He leaves his rural community of Point Hill in St. Catherine at 4 o’clock in the mornings to reach classes early at his school – Jose Marti Technical High in Spanish Town.
David sometimes returns home as late as 10pm whenever he stays behind at school to do extra lessons or assignments.
The main reason for his unusual travel hours, he said, is the difficulty he sometimes experiences in getting transportation.
“Because the road to my community is dark and rarely travelled, many motorists do not chance it,” David added. “It is quite hectic because I am from the countryside.”
Luckily, David travels in the mornings with a Good Samaritan who leaves his Point Hill community at 4 o’clock and goes past his school in Spanish Town.
That straight drive results in David reaching school early – often two hours before classes commence at 8am.
Transportation, in the meantime, is not the only major issue with which the teen grapples.
Though his father is still alive and well, his mother is said to be his sole breadwinner.
She struggles to make ends meet and so David has to make several sacrifices.
He, at one point, had no computer to do assignments and no reliable internet at home.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic shifted the education system to online learning, David had to visit the library in his community to do classes due to poor internet connectivity in his section of the community.
For financial assistance, he relied on the government’s social safety net initiative – PATH.
He also benefits financially and otherwise from a mentorship programme spearheaded by the Jose Marti Past Students Association (New York chapter). The association, which is active at the school, distributed several awards and donated $1.3 million in scholarships and grants to students and staff on January 10, in observation of the school’s 45th anniversary. David was among the student awardees.
He is grateful for the help.
His mother is ecstatic about his academic feats.
“I am feeling great; I am feeling wonderful; I am overjoyed,” she told The Beacon, adding that she expects David to remain successful and respectful.
The mother noted that she was not offered educational opportunities and so she does not want her children to suffer the same fate.
“I send them to school as a single mother. Every day they go to school whether rain fall, sun shine or even if I don’t have the money,” she declared.
Reflecting on the struggle she endured in supporting her six children, the mother said: “Mi wash people dirty clothes; mi clean people place; mi do farming – bill bush [and] burn coal… Most mothers wouldn’t do what I do… If my children have one suit of clothes, nobody knows. Every day dem goh out clean.”
The mother, in the meantime, has been living with one of her daughters abroad in recent times. In light of that, David and his younger brother now live with a guardian.
According to David, his drive to succeed is fueled mainly by his desire to help his mother.
“What generally keeps me going is the fact that I am going to help my mom in the future,” said the teen, who also is a past student of Mendez Basic School and Point Hill Primary.
He is now in sixth form at Jose Marti Technical High.
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