Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
Eighteen-year-old Moya Williams was left stunned recently when she learned Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) had named her, a Jamaican living in the Cayman Islands, its top performer worldwide in travel and tourism.
As a result of her outstanding performance in her exams last June, Moya just over two weeks ago received the 'Top in the World' award from CIE, the world's largest provider of international education programmes and qualifications for students up to 19 years old.
According to CIE, more than 9,000 schools in more than 160 countries are part of its learning community.
Williams, who grew up in Westmoreland and left Jamaica less than a decade ago, studied AS-Level travel and tourism at the Cayman Preparatory and High School in the Cayman Islands.
"This was the first time the programme was being introduced to the school, so we had no students above us who we could ask for help, so I didn't know what to expect," Moya told The Gleaner.
Hard work paid off
"I basically had to seek help from my classmates, so I had no interest in doing the course at first. However, I was convinced by my friend and I decided to take the course."
She added: "I used every opportunity I had to study and I really had to push myself, just so I could take in everything. I constantly went over my notes just to keep up and I guess it paid off."
Moya is no stranger to success, having received 11 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects with grades one and two. She shared that when she received the news of her latest achievement, it took a while to digest.
"I was in the assembly and the principal said somebody here has received the highest award in the world, so my friend and I started calling names of persons in the class who we thought were eligible and then I heard my name," she explained. "I was so shocked! It took an hour to sink in because I really wasn't expecting this," she said.
During that celebration assembly at Cayman Prep and High on January 17, Moya was presented with her Cambridge 'Top in the World' award by Shomari Scott, Cayman Islands director of tourism, and Dianne Conolly, tourism training and development coordinator.
Moya's mother, Karen Williams, was still in awe when she spoke with The Gleaner. She said though she knew her daughter was a disciplined child, she did not anticipate such a high honour.
"Moya is a focused girl. She knows when it's time to be serious and when it's time to play and I knew she would do well, but to receive the highest award in the world, words really can't explain how I am feeling!" said the ecstatic mother.
"I am really overjoyed. She has made us here very proud and also her family in Jamaica. Whenever clients come in, I just begin to tell them and I show them the letter because I'm just so happy," she continued.
Karen, who left Jamaica for the Cayman Islands in 1990, returned home when she was expecting her bundle of joy. Moya then spent her early years growing up with her grandmother and aunt in Westmoreland before joining her mother in Cayman seven years ago.
Reflecting once more on her achievement, Moya encouraged students to be focused and never forget the importance of hard work.
"You have to work for what you want, it cannot be overemphasised. Make the best of every opportunity so that when you look back, you won't have any regrets," she said.