14-y-o St Jago quiz captain: I’m willing to make tough decisions when other people don’t
Ever since she was a student at Solid Base Preparatory School, Jhaneille Esson’s responsible demeanor and go-getter attitude always made her a favourite for youth leadership roles.
So it came as no surprise to her, or her parents, Jhann-Marie and O’Neil Esson, when the coaches for St Jago High’s Schools’ Challenge Quiz team selected her as captain when she was in grade seven at age 13 years, shortly after enrolment.
Jhaneille, who on March 31 led St Jago to victory over Calabar High, 28-16, in this year’s TVJ competition, says she knew she was born to lead as a child in prep school.
That innate drive and positive attitude was solidified after she was shortlisted for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Speech and Music Competition in 2017. That year, she won a bronze medal for speech performance.
Jhaneille was elected head girl for Solid Base Prep in 2018.
Now 14 and an eighth-grader, Jhaneille is happy for the vote of confidence from her coaches on two counts – rejecting gendered and ageist perspectives that a young girl might not be able to lead senior schoolmates.
“It feels great, especially because I’m the only girl on the team, so it feels really good that three other boys would allow me to lead them,” Jhaneille, oozing joy, said in a Gleaner interview.
“What I think they saw was that I had the ability to lead, and I’m willing to make tough decisions when other people don’t want to make those decisions.”
Jhaneille also believes she was chosen because she likes to push herself as hard as she can “to be successful”.
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, preparing for the 53-year-old, high-stakes quiz competition, striking a balance with schoolwork was no easy task for Jhaneille.
Juggling online classes while being at the helm of her quiz team, whether remotely or in person, was tedious, Jhaneille admits, but she drew deep on her reserves to overcome those challenges.
“I had a little issue with keeping up with schoolwork because I was so into quiz all the time that I lost track of homework sometimes and I had to be constantly contacting teachers to apologise for missing classes, and stuff like that, so that was my biggest challenge this season,” Jhaneille told The Gleaner.
Mom Jhann-Marie is happy that her daughter was made captain of St Jago from grade seven and is gratified that she has delivered on the faith placed in her hands.
“I am in awe of her. She set her mind to something and she achieved it. Proud is not the word. Proud is an understatement of how I feel,” Jhann-Marie said.
Jhaneille has ambitions of pursuing a career in engineering and is hopeful of snaring a place at one of America’s eight Ivy League universities.