10-year-old has sights set on helping other children
It has been an uphill struggle for mother and daughter team Yvonne Elliott Mattis and Danielle Elliott, but it is one that has now seen the 10-year-old on the road to chasing her dreams.
It was a dream come true for her when she got the news that she had been placed at the school she had her heart set on attending - Hampton High in St Elizabeth - after sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) at Harbour View Primary School.
Danielle said she particularly wanted to go to Hampton as she sees the institution as one rich in history and one that will fit right in with her goal of becoming a paediatric surgeon.
She is not shy in stating why she so badly wants to take that path. "I love kids. I would like to help the nation's children so they do not die. I would try to fix it so our future does not go down," are the mature words coming from Danielle.
NOT AN EASY ROAD
Beaming with pride, her mother, Mattis, said it had not been an easy road as she could not afford all the books her daughter needed and there were some days when she did not even have lunch money to give her.
She is thanking God that her daughter is a gifted child, although that also presents its own set of problems.
"From she was two, she has been through 13 schools - from nursery, pre-school, prep and primary, and even a learning centre - all because her brain was not being mentally challenged," Mattis told The Gleaner.
She said each time she tried Danielle at a new school, she had to end up "rescuing her" as her daughter would draw on her textbooks and hardcover books, had terrible nightmares, hated school, or even drew cartoons and well-laid-out dress designs with detailed accessories on her examination papers after she had finished them.
"Since she was two, I observed that she was a special child because she could understand things beyond her years," Mattis said. She bemoaned the fact that she doesn't know of any school in Jamaica that caters exclusively to children who are gifted.
Mattis said that after homeschooling Danielle in grade two, she learnt a lot about her daughter.
"She would find errors in books by prominent publishers, so I realised that it required special skills to teach a child like her. I had to work as a part-time teacher at the time, so it was difficult. I decided to give the prep-school system a try, but although she excelled academically and played chess and was on the school choir and in the drama and art club, she was miserable," Mattis shared.
Last year, after things got really hard, and having a sick mother to care for, Mattis had to again pull her daughter from the formal school system to homeschool her.
"For most of 2017, I did not get a chance to even mark Danielle's work, let alone help her to study. As the time drew nearer for the GSAT, I realised I had to cover the grades four to six syllabus with her," she said, admitting her gratitude to a friend who told her about a teacher at Harbour View Primary School, Joel Bachan, who she thought could motivate Danielle to work harder.
"Mr Bachan really tried, and it added structure to her work, but with so much to catch up on, because she was not there from the September, it was a roller-coaster ride to the GSAT. I had to find other teachers she liked in order to get her to do the makeup work because at home, it was like world war three trying to get her to do additional work," Mattis reminisced.
With GSAT now behind her, Danielle scored full marks in communication task, 99 per cent in language arts, and an overall average of 96 per cent.
The challenge remains now for Mattis to get her daughter all she needs to make the transition to Hampton.
"I am wondering how we are going to manage. She will require books and other stuff, and that will prove problematic. I am hoping to get a job before she starts," Mattis said.
At 10, Danielle already has a merit in violin grade one level and will be aiming for a distinction next. She also represented Jamaica in chess at age nine, and fostering her extra-curricular activities, Mattis said, came at tremendous sacrifice as most times, she can't even afford to buy herself a patty.
Danielle wowed listeners when she called in to the Peace and Love Academic Scholarship (PALAS) telethon marathon on Saturday, with listeners moved to tears after hearing her story. PALAS has already confirmed that she will be one of the scholarship recipients on Saturday, August 25, at The Pegasus hotel.
Mattis is thankful and is now hoping the miracle will continue.