Beacon of the day | The degree holder who finished high school without a subject

Cean Madden-Hewitt, who battled illness and struggled academically throughout primary and high school, is now the proud holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Education.

She hails from the community of Red Bank, St. Elizabeth.

While attending Red Bank Primary School, Hewitt, on three occasions, failed the Common Entrance Examination, which was being used to place students in secondary schools.

But she enrolled at St. Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) using an entry test.

Hewitt’s high school experience was riddled with medical complications, starting when she was 14 years old and in second form.

“I was feeling weak; my skin started to get coarse; my eyes were bulging out of my head, heart racing – among other complains,” she told The Beacon.

She also recalled some students starting to spread rumour that she was pregnant.

“That took a toll on me because, once they label me as pregnant and don’t see a stomach growing, they will draw the conclusion that I abort the pregnancy. I was only 14 years old and to be dealing with that rumor and the fact that I was feeling sick were a lot for me to deal with.”

Hewitt was diagnosed with hypothyroidism – a condition in which one’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain crucial hormones.

“This disorder damaged most of the cells in my body, so I was really sick. I couldn’t stay up for longer than five hours and, as such, high school wasn’t a success for me,” she said.

“I was in-between hospitals and doctors just to get quick help for me to continue with my life.”

Hewitt left high school in 1999 without a subject – a misfortune she blames on her illness. “At that time, I felt disappointed,” she said.

Hewitt ended up losing interest in education, in her medical appointments, and in her initial dream to make it big in business.

She became pregnant – having her son at age 19 and her daughter three years later.

Members of Hewitt’s family became frustrated, but they did not give up on her.

“My parents and stepmother encouraged me to go back to school, but I was reluctant,” she said. “I doubted myself as the medication I was taking had a bad effect on me. I was taking 16 tablets per day.”

When Hewitt mustered the courage to resume medical check-ups, her family doctor referred her to the University Hospital of the West Indies.

“After several months to and from the hospital, they decided to finally give a radio-active treatment to burn out the excessive part of my thyroid glands. It cost a lot of money but again my parents and family stood by me and made it happen,” Hewitt further commented.

After the treatment, her medical condition changed for the better.

“To date, I never felt like before,” Hewitt said.

She, feeling a new burst of energy, enrolled at South East College for two years and attained seven CXC subjects.

That academic accomplishment was the result of hard work and sacrifices.

Hewitt explained: “The only money I used to earn [while in South East College] was when I was asked to relieve Miss Cassandra Rowe in her absence at my community library, and I also was helping my mother in her bar. Those were the avenues I used to pay for my CXC. During the days, I used to work in the bar. I studied for my CXC and attended classes in the evenings.”

The financial struggle continued when Hewitt pursued her diploma in Education at Bethlehem Moravian College.

“I didn’t have a red cent to even buy the application form,” she recalled.

“I begged the application fee and started the process. I applied to the Students’ Loan Bureau, and a loan was granted to me to fund my tuition. The problem was not solved. I was still worried with the daily expense along with my two children and bills.”

Hewitt added that, with the support of her family, she completed college and got her diploma in three years without failing a course.

She later mulled pursuing her degree, but she opted to place it on hold because her son was about to start high school.

She started searching for a job.

“I struggled to get a job in the classroom for years, and so my financial life was still in the low,” Hewitt said. “I left college 2013 and it was in 2017 that I earned my first salary as a teacher.”

Hewitt’s first job was at Red Bank Primary School, where she was contracted for a year.

At the end of her contract, she volunteered at Santa Cruz Primary and Junior High School.

“I didn’t know how I was going to manage as the distance from Red Bank to Santa Cruz is far and I went there to volunteer,” Hewitt noted.

In light of the fact that she would have been travelling frequently into Santa Cruz, Hewitt considered pursuing her degree there.

She registered at the International University of the Caribbean (IUC).

“The school fee was $604,000. Of that money, I had none. However, I stepped out in faith and began,” she told The Beacon.

While at IUC, Hewitt got a job as a teacher at Santa Cruz Primary School where she had been volunteering.

“I was very grateful that God came through for me as I was having it really hard to fund everything,” she said.

Misfortune suddenly emerged in March 2020. That’s when Hewitt got notice that her contract at Santa Cruz Primary would have ended the following month.

“My world was torn apart because, at that time, because it was during COVID-19, I was not able to get a job to finish college,” she said.

She communicated her situation with the college, and, luckily, was given time to pay.

“I successfully competed IUC and didn’t fail a course; I earned my degree,” Hewitt commented.

“Even today I still owe the college, but, with resilience, I was still able to keep focus and complete. I was able to complete my two years without having to tell anyone about my sickness because I decided to put it behind me and persevere.”

Hewitt, a Christian for six years, told The Beacon that her struggle has taught her a vital lesson.

“This journey has taught me to never let anything come between me and my dreams,” she said. “I am a Christian and, as such, I trust God wholeheartedly with the process and He came through for me.”

Hewitt is now mulling a Master’s degree. She is married to Allen Hewitt – the father of her two children.


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