Taylor McKenzie, the Caribbean's best in agriculture, wants to be a doctor
Manning's School's illustrious history in academia was further burnished recently when 18-year-old Taylor McKenzie, a lower sixth-form student at the Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland-based institution, was named the top student in the Caribbean in Agriculture Science in the 2014 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate Examinations.
"I was happy about being the top student in Jamaica, but I was really shocked about topping the Caribbean ... it was such a good feeling," said McKenzie.
Agricultural science was one of nine subjects McKenzie sat last year, and she was successful in all nine. The list includes chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and English language. It is completed by information technology, principles of accounts, and office administration.
In 2013, she sat human and social biology and walked away with a distinction.
McKenzie is slated to sit five subjects - chemistry, biology, physics, communication studies, and environmental science in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations this year.
Despite her love for agriculture, young McKenzie is aspiring to become a medical doctor and an entrepreneur.
"I would like to pursue a career in medicine and at the same time create an agricultural business steeped in crop production and manufacturing, so we would be looking at canning and bottling products to satisfy local demand and export as well. I have not ruled out veterinary medicine, so it could be a factor," explained McKenzie.
She credits her paternal grandfather, Rupert McKenzie - with whom she has a wonderful relationship - with her passion for agriculture. He is a farmer of ground provisions.
According to McKenzie, she is not afraid of getting her hands dirty as it is something she has been doing for quite some time.
"I do some planting at home - tomatoes, peppers, ackee, soursop, naseberry, and mango," said McKenzie. "The soursop is really my favourite, but I do get a good quantity of ackees."
Her passion for agriculture has been enhanced by her teacher, Richard Washington, who heads the Agricultural Science Department at Manning's.
"Mr Washington is an excellent teacher. He taught me for two years. He is very hands on with the practical, so he makes it easy for you to learn," said McKenzie. "We have an excellent team of teachers here, and the agricultural science team is simply the best."
The agricultural science team includes Demerce Guscott, Shawna Brown, and Devon Callam.
Reflecting on McKenzie's accomplishment, Guscott was full of praises for her, speaking glowingly about her intelligence and her focus.
"She is a remarkable student ... she is intelligent, very focused and knows what she wants and plans how to get there," said Guscott. "Taylor is very disciplined and organised and a student of excellence."
For McKenzie, preparation is important for success in all areas of life.
"I usually try and get homework done first and then study. I learn from practising, so I believe in doing the homework so you can reproduce the information later when required. When I get home from school and clubs, I do homework then study."
McKenzie said she is inspired by what she believes is her innate ability from God.
"I am inspired by the ability God has given us to live, communicate, and to use our lives to be productive, brilliant human beings," she said.
The Digicel Foundation and Food For the Poor recently handed over a new greenhouse to the Manning's School, replacing an older structure at the institution.
McKenzie was among those present at the handover and believes the greenhouse is integral to the success of the agricultural science and environmental science programmes as well as the overall sustainability of the institution.
"The greenhouse impacts greatly on the students here ... we produce vegetables and these are used in the lunches at the canteen. It also gives students practice - transplanting, and other elements are brought to life - and so the greenhouse is an excellent boost for learning and sustainability as well."
McKenzie is the last of four daughters for her parents, Annette, a beauty therapist, and Trevor, a musician.
She lists her mother and father as dual role models. Loving, caring, determined, and hard working are adjectives she uses to describe them.
But it is not all work for the aspiring doctor/farmer. She makes time for clubs at school and is involved as president of the Spirit Committee, second-vice-president of the Leo Club, current affairs director in the United Nations Club, and treasurer of the Quiz Club.
The Spirit Committee (socially participating inspiring recognising and improving talent) is responsible for generating a school spirit, Spanish quiz, house competitions, and the annual sports day.
In her spare time, McKenzie enjoys playing badminton and lawn tennis, listening to soul music, going to the beach, and surfing the Internet.