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TT'S GOT TALENT

By JULIEN NEAVES Friday, July 5 2013

click on pic to zoom in

SANDHYA SOOKHOO skillfuly strums the sitar. Kay-Lynn Ramlal plays the violin like a pro. Troy Samlalsingh is an award-winning actor. Each of them is 12 years old.

Yesterday the three students from South Trinidad, took national centre stage not for their talents in the arts, but for copping the top three places in the 2013 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examinations.

There were loud cheers and applause yesterday at Grant Memorial Presbyterian School in San Fernando when it was announced that Sandhya had placed first in the country in the SEA, beating out more than 18,000 other students. She received a perfect score of 20 out of 20 for creative writing and 98 out of 100 for both mathematics and language arts.

She was greeted by Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh and other ministry officials yesterday during the minister’s tour of the schools of the top three SEA students for this year. The soft spoken young lady attributed her accomplishment to “hard work, prayers and the work of my teachers and parents.” She said it was difficult studying for the SEA, with mathematics being the most difficult subject on the day.

Asked if she expected to top the nation she said “honestly, I knew I could do it but I wasn’t so sure.” Her advice to other young people is to, “just work hard, believe in yourself and trust God with everything.” She passed for her first choice Naparima Girls College and her dream job is to become a paediatrician.

Her mother Marsha, who is a teacher, said that when news that her daughter received the top SEA accolade, her husband, a surgeon was “in the operating theatre saving a life” at San Fernando General Hospital. She noted that her daughter has been consistent from the start and she was a top preschool student. “I always told her that she was a model student and she lived up to that,” Marsha said.

She noted that her daughter was self-motivated and never had to be reminded to do homework or projects. “She has always been driven and I think this for her is reward in itself for all of her efforts,” she said. Marsha pointed out that being a secondary school teacher she sees “permissive parenting...as the root of all evil.”

“I think parents do have to practice tough love from time to time and not give in to the demands of children. Give them the love, give them the little extras, the little luxuries but all within reason. Because we need to keep them grounded,” she said.

She refers to her daughter as “Ms Grant School” because she is involved in all the activities at her school including sports day, walkathon, bazaars and competitions outside of school. Her extra curricular activities include playing chess and gymnastics. Next week the Sookhoo family, from La Romaine, will be going to Disney World. Grant Memorial principal Monica Baksh said she was elated and pleased for Sandhya. “She is a pupil who has been consistent not only with her academics. She has been involved in all our activities from quiz to volleyball, almost everything I could think of she has always been involved. And I think she is an excellent student and a role model for all other students,” she said.

This is the second first place SEA win for Grant Memorial. Back in 2004, Reanna Gobin received the top spot. This year, ten Grant Memorial pupils placed in the top 200 SEA students, a feat matched by San Fernando Trinidad Muslim League (TML) Primary School, which was the next stop on minister Gopeesingh’s tour. There he met third placed SEA student, the amiable Troy Samlalsingh from San Fernando. “I was shocked at first but I’m very happy,” the young student told reporters. He noted that preparation for SEA was “tiring” and “hard” but he “mixed it with a lot of extracurricular activities like football, music and scouting”.

Troy also is an accomplished actor in his own right, as he starred at SanFest in 2011 where he won the overall storytelling category with Julius Caesar — a Marc Antony Perspective. He told reporters he wants to be a professional footballer and a lawyer.

His favourite team is English Premiere League champions of 2012, Manchester United, which he hopes to play for one day. His favourite player is Portuguese scoring phenom Cristiano Ronaldo. Troy passed for his first choice Presentation College, San Fernando.

TML Principal Camille Hosein gave praise and thanks to Allah for the students’ success and for bringing fame and glory to the school. This year the school celebrates their diamond jubilee under the theme “Excellence over the years”. The school previously had two students that topped the country in SEA: Sushma Karim in 2007 and Ashaish Mohammed in 2010.

The final stop on Gopeesingh’s tour was the Tulsa Trace Hindu SDMS Primary School in Penal for second place SEA student Kay-Lynn Ramlal from nearby Gopee Trace. Her name featured prominently on the programme for the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday as she won “most outstanding female”, “best creative writing student” and “ principal’s trophy for culture”.

When Gopeesingh announced her name Ramlal’s parents started to cry. Kay-Lynn also started to weep, saying, “I am very happy that all of my hard work paid off,” she told Newsday.

She said the exam was “a bit stressful”. She is not sure what she wants to be when she grows up but just wants to make her family proud. Like Sandhya, Kay-Lynn’s first choice was also Naparima Girls College. Her mother Radika, a teacher, praised her daughter. “My child worked hard, she made sacrifices...it paid off!” She noted that her daughter will receive her reward of a trip to New York during the vacation period. She noted that her daughter balanced her studies with music. She said extra curricular activities are a good foundation for students as it helps them to relax and get away from academics, “rather than books and studies 24 hours a day.” The country’s top 200 SEA students will each receive a $1,000 reward from the Government.

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