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‘Straight out of Brooke Valley’ – Tough inner-city community on a high after TVJ’s junior schools quiz finals

Jamaica Gleaner / More often than not, the community of ‘Brooke Valley’ in Duhaney Park, St Andrew, is in the news for negative incidents. This time around, the hard work of two sixth-graders has put the residents on high.

Kevi-Ann Rose of George Headley Primary and Jucan Thomas of Meadowbrook Preparatory, who live metres apart, defied the odds and helped their teams to the finals of this year’s TVJ Junior Schools’ Challenge Quiz Competition.

George Headley, with the valiant Kevi-Ann, emerged victors 26-24, but that did not stop the residents from also celebrating Jucan.

“Me feel great fi know seh two little kids from di place, based on the situation wah gwaan now inna di place, have dem focus. Me like what a gwaan,” declared Dennis Hinds, as he highlighted the gang violence that has rocked the community over the years.

“Bwoy, it is so hard fi talk ’bout, but me love them one million times. Dem a di miracle for the community regardless of what you see a go on. A dem lift it up. A my star dem,” added an elated Terence Hedge.

 

Nail-biting tie  

For 30 minutes on December 12, residents of Brooke Valley, and other quiz fans, sat staring at their television screens as the two schools battled to a nail-biting tie at the final buzzer.

With scores locked at 24-24, that was when Kevi-Ann bowed her head and decided victory would be for George Headley in the ‘sudden death’.

“I was wondering which subject it (question) would be and if it was going to be difficult or easy. I just waited to see if it was the same question and then answered,” said a smiling Kevi-Ann, a stark contrast to the concentration she displayed before blurting out the final answer and erupting in celebration.

“I wanted to win because we were going up against Meadowbrook Prep and they dominated every school they came up against, so I said, ‘All right, we just have to focus and do our best’,” said the 11-year-old, who has a passion for quiz, dancing and gymnastics, and who hopes to become a criminal lawyer.

“I wanted to go hard,” she laughed, as she declared that her knowing Jucan prior to their match was not an issue.

Kevi-Ann’s mother Latoya Warren said she has learnt from her daughter’s academic determination.

“People will say a lot about Brooke Valley, but we know that we are very gifted. They always say children must learn from their parents, but I think these parents can learn from the smaller ones,” said Warren.

“We have examples that great things can happen here; it is just that some of the people are not, I don’t even know what to say. Good things can come out of here, great things. We just have to encourage our kids,” added Warren, as she underscored the difficulties of raising a girl child in the inner city.

“You have to watch the company. You have to be there for your child. Be that mother that whatever your child needs, you are there for them,” she said, stroking her daughter’s head.

Where Jucan’s mother Kenisha Sutherland is soft, his stern grandmother, Icelin Dixon, is not afraid to yank the boy back into form with her voice.

According to the proud mother, ‘good-manners’ is key in their household, and Jucan knows it.

“It is kind of hard because there is the temptation for him to be outside running up and down with the other kids. We have to constantly be telling him not to go out there, but he has his times when we allow him,” said Sutherland.

“Brooke Valley is all of that (crime) and more. Sometimes we have gunshots, then we have good times, and even now we had a little uproar for the Christmas, and I don’t know why. It’s as if they wanted to destroy the Christmas for the kids. But apart from that, it is a good community,” added Sutherland.

 

‘Mom, I got this’  

With the pride evident in her voice she declared: “A my don that. What I love most about him is his confidence. He believes that he can do anything. Even when I am fretting and cussing, his favourite quote is: ‘Mom, I got this’.” She laughed as she recalled how he would often cut off her fretful rants for him to go study with that phrase.

Jucan is good at mathematics, though the best part of school for him is hanging out with friends. He wants to become an Internet web application designer.

He was friends with Kevi-Ann before the match, and attended events at the nearby George Headley Primary School.

“I felt nervous right up until the match but when it started, that nervousness went away. I felt

excited that I was going up against a school that I had gone to its fairs and had fun times,” said Jucan.

“Some of my friends used to go to George Headley so they are glad that George Headley won, but all of them are congratulating me,” he said.

Both students will sit the Grade Six Achievement Test next year, and Debra Byfield, another proud resident of Brooke Valley, was among those wishing them all the best.

“It’s a great feeling that even the younger children can emulate. They see them on TV and they can look at themselves and say they can do it as well,” said Byfield.

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