Avia Ustanny, Outlook Writer
YANIQUE NISSAN DaCosta, 12-year-old daughter of Kingston-based health therapist Mary Naughty, has won more trophies in the last year than many who are much older have collected in their lifetime.
At the end of the school year, the student, also the Valedictorian of her 2005 Wolmer's Prep School graduating class, received certificates/gifts for excellence in numerous fields.
These included: the Kitty Sharpe Girl of the Year 2005 Award; the Fab 5 trophy for Embodiment of Creativity and the Aesthetics; the honour award in Spanish; excellence in mathematics; excellence in music; excellence in dance, the highest point average for the school year; and the Dean of Studies Special Award for Excellence.
Yanique, a Steinhol Chemicals Scholar who is now a first form student of Immaculate Conception High School possesses an intellect that moves at the speed of her namesake. She has been a 'fast' child since birth.
She did everything early, says mom Mary Naughty, and she did everything fast, walking and talking months before children who were born at the same time.
The first hint of her gifted status, however, was the fact that the toddler would fall sleep routinely in kindergarten classes at Quest Preparatory School. One day, a teacher at the institution realised that she had fallen asleep out of sheer boredom. The effort was made to challenge her and for the first time the small girl was able to stay awake in classes. She began using books which were above her grade level at this stage.
At grade one, her mother decided to transfer her to Wolmer's where more competition existed for the bright girl but, again, the six-year-old lost interest until she was discovered in the school library by Dean of Studies, Adrian Mandara.
Mandara, recognising her problem, set out to develop a programme of study for the young student, helping her to develop habits - including completing homework at school - that would leave time for the activities that she really wanted to do.
Yanique, a clear multi-tasker told Outlook that today, there is nothing that she enjoys as much as leadership.
In the last school year, September 2004-July 2005, Yanique was the president of the Wolmer's Prep School Builders Club, head girl, prefect, house captain, member of the Wolmer's Dance Troupe, president of the Spanish Club, member of the Chess Club, member of the school's Quiz Teams (TVJ Schools' Challenge Quiz and the KFC Quiz Competition), member of the choir/instrumental group and soloist of the school.
Leadership, she says, gives her the opportunity to impact on and change the lives of people around her.
She has also been actively involved in the Kiwanis Club with her Mom, through which she has pursued several fund-raisers for Chevannes Basic School in St. Andrew.
So effective has she been in this project that Yanique, along with her mother, has been made a director of that school board.
In Yanique's fan club are her mom, her 17- year-old brother Kamar and her sponsors and mentors Doreen Frankson, Donna Duncan Scott and Adrian Mandara.
With their continuous encouragement, in the last school year, Yanique was also first place winner in the 8-11 years category in the 'Buy Jamaican' Essay Competition; gold medallist in the girls 4 x 100 relay at the Wolmer's Prep sports day; first place winner in the Optimist Club of North St. Andrew Oratorical Contest; and third place winner in the Optimist International Zone Oratorical Contest (as the only prep school student competing at that level with students of high school and tertiary institutions).
Yanique was also the first place winner in the Kiwanis Club of Eastern St. Andrew Builders Club Oratorical Competition and second place winner in the Kiwanis Division 23 East Builders Club Oratorical Competition.
She also won the leadership award in the Kiwanis Division 23 East Builders Club Leadership Competition, taking this award again at national and international levels.
In 2005, she was honoured as an outstanding Builders Club President 2005 by the Kiwanis Club of Eastern St. Andrew and was also a recipient of the club's GSAT Scholarship.
Mini Miss Ja
In the tradition of her mom, who was Miss Jamaica Mother after having her, Yanique won the Mini Miss Jamaica competition and represented Jamaica in the year 2001 in the United States of America.
Today, to truly relax, there is nothing the 12-year-old likes better than sleeping.
She also loves music and plays the guitar and the keyboard. Yanique also loves to cook and did the entire Christmas Day meal with mom and brother looking admiringly over her shoulders.
Her mom says that she is hooked on Disney too, but she 'knows where to draw the line'.
The single mother - a certified massage therapist, reflexologist and fitness trainer - says she has not regretted one minute of the sacrifice involved in meeting the needs of both her children. She has had to do without a lot of things personally, but she believes that both Kamar and Yanique know the value of her sacrifice.
She discusses everything with them and prays with her children five times a day.
Fortunately, Yanique's school fees are taken care of by her scholarship which she has had now for five years. University fees -; for Harvard or Yale which Yanique says she is determined to go - will hopefully be met in the same manner.
Adrian Mandara, Dean of Studies at Wolmer's who continues to be her mentor and father figure, told Outlook, "Yanique is a very focused child. She is also very caring. From kindergarten to grade six at Wolmer's, the students know her - that's the kind of child she is. She seems to be older than her age."
According to Mandara, Yanique embraces both the arts and the sciences and is a "go getter, a high achiever and never-say-die type of individual.
"We hope that everything she aspires she will get. She wants to become a microbiologist. I don't see anything stopping her," her mentor said.