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"A lifelong dream come true."
This is how Caitlin Brooker, the
top performing SEA student for
2016, described her accomplish-
ment moments after being given
the good news yesterday.
She beat out 18,179 other stu-
dents from 543 primary schools
across T&T for the top spot, mak-
ing it the fifth consecutive year a
girl has topped the nation in the
Caitlin, who celebrated her 12th
birthday last Saturday, said she
had been dreaming of being num-
ber one in the exam since she first
entered the San Fernando TML
School seven years ago. She passed
for her first choice school, Napari-
ma Girls College.
"I am really, really, really thankful
and I am so ecstatic. I m really,
really happy, it was all I ever want-
ed, it was my life long goal," she
said moments after being given
the information by Education Min-
ister Anthony Garcia, who was
among those on hand to congrat-
"It s one of the biggest moments
of my life and I will cherish it for-
ever. I was really, really praying
since before SEA... since First
Year... I wanted to be the top (stu-
dent). I am really happy to perform
this well. I am really, really happy...
it was all I ever wanted."
Caitlin did not shy away from
the cameras as the media sur-
rounded her and proudly declared
her career goals, saying: "I want
to be a politician, a lawyer, a his-
torian, an actress, a detective, a
mythologist, a teacher, a dancer
and an interior designer."
She said she did not do many
extra classes but she had this advice
for next year s SEA students:
"Always persevere, never give
up. Keep focused and try your best,
every lunch time, sacrifice some
time, sit down with your friends
and quiz each other. That will really
"And when you quiz people you
learn more, you actually get the
information into your head and
you learn faster."
Her father, Randall Brooker, said
Caitlin was a very driven child and
credited her success to her own
"We are very happy for her. We
knew she would do well. We didn t
expect her to get first but she is
a very motivated child, very driv-
en," Brooker said.
"What she has accomplished
here today, I think is 99 per cent
through her efforts. It s nothing
that we had do anything extra for
"She didn t go to any extra les-
sons other than what the teachers
provided and she went to one class
for creative writing but apart from
that she did her own work. She
set her own goals without prompt-
ing from her parents."
He said he tried as much as pos-
sible to allow her to have a normal
life. "She had her tv time. She had
extracurricular activities as much
as she could so you know to keep
a balanced life as much as she
could, not to be beating books
all the time and so basically we let
her set her own agenda to a certain
extent and we were there to just
nudge her back on the path that
would determine the goals she set
Both parents said they had not
planned any celebrations for Caitlin
in advance but that they would
now do something to mark her
Bahamas trip for
Don't depend on
Anil Beepat, the father of one of the
top performing SEA students nationwide,
is urging parents to step up to ensure the
success of their children.
Beepat s 12-year-old son, Michael, a
student of the Avocat Vedic Primary
School, placed second overall among the
18,180 students who sat the exam in May.
Michael, an aspiring astronaut, passed
for his first choice school, Naparima Boys
He was also among six students at the
school to place within the top 200 scorers
in the exam. Education Minister Anthony
Garcia visited the school and presented
Michael with his results yesterday.
"Michael really is an outstanding stu-
dent, he never said no, he never complained
for all the work he would have had, for
all the past papers he had to do," his father
said, beaming proudly.
"This last month leading up to the exam
we were very structured with him and he
never complained. He went to every extra
lesson. He was ready, prompt, on time and
he really did the best he could do and we
could only hope that he did well and this
is over the top for us."
He advised parents, however, that the
secret to a successful child was good par-
"It s really an amazing feeling to be a
parent. I want to underscore the impor-
tance of parenting, being parents to your
children and not only depending on the
teachers. Teachers will only take you so
"Parents and good parenting... you need
to really focus on these kids and spend
time with them and their schoolwork. That
is the secret to any successful child."
His wife, Hema, chimed in: "Ensure
your child has a study routine everyday,
no matter what. Cramming is never going
"Make sure you cover an hour, an hour-
and-a-half, everyday, weekends, public
holidays, just be consistent, cover the syl-
labus, do the practice papers, get your tim-
ing in, that is the only thing that will ensure
Asked what the family would do to cel-
ebrate Michael s achievements, his mother
said her younger son had expressed an
interest in visiting Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Michael s face lit up when his father
interjected, saying: "The tickets are already
bought, so he is on his way to the Bahamas
A soft-spoken Michael said while he
did not expect to do so well in the exams,
he spent most of his time preparing.
"I feel very happy, not expecting these
results. I would do practice papers and
then try to improve on my work.
"My daily routine included getting up,
eating and around 9 we would do a paper,
then correct it to see what I did wrong.
Then in the next paper I would try to
improve it," Michael said. (SR)
...as Caitlin tops SEA
Girls continue to shine...
TML'S TOP STUDENTS
Pupils of St Gabriel's Girls' RC School, San Fernando, embrace each
other following their success in the SEA examination yesterday.
PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
Avocat Vedic School's Michael Beepat, third from right, who
placed second in the SEA exam, celebrates with his friends
after receiving their results yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
A total of 16 students from the
San Fernando TML School were
among those who placed within
the top 200 students in the exam
Speaking during a ceremony at
the school yesterday, Education
Minister Anthony Garcia said 139
of the top performers were girls.
"Sixty one of the top perform-
ers are boys and the other 139 are
girls. We continue to see a trend
of girls succeeding but I want to
encourage all boys and girls to
continue to work hard.
"The passage from primary to
secondary school is a right you
must enjoy and cherish," he
Garcia said he was also consid-
ering a study to track the per-
formance of top SEA students.
"I am thinking about conducting
a study to track your progress
throughout the five or seven
years it takes to complete your
education, so we can see how you
carry forward your success."
Also present were Attorney
General Faris Al-Rawi, Junior Min-
ister in Education Dr Lovell Fran-
cis, San Fernando East MP and
Housing Minister Randall Mitchell
and San Fernando Mayor Kazim
Addressing the students briefly,
Al-Rawi urged them to remember
the results only marked a small
step in their lives.
"I want you to recognise it
doesn't matter what your school
of choice was or if you passed for
the first choice, this is only a
small step in your life.
"Whatever school you go to is a
good school, it is up to you to
work hard to determine your suc-
cess. Your failures in life are
sometimes your best lessons," he
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