Former ward of State grateful for upbringing
Nakeba Brown was only 10 when her mother died at age 29, leaving nine children who had to be rescued by the then Child Development Agency (CDA), now the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).
The trauma of losing her mother at a tender age, being separated from her brothers and sisters and living with strangers, took an emotional toll on her early life. Among the persons who sought to comfort her was a pastor who encouraged her to pray, which she did reluctantly.
Gradually, life became normal for Brown, and the first major good thing that she experienced was success in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), now Primary Exit Profile (PEP).
"In my GSAT, I never knew I could become a success," she shared recently at the 2020 CPFSA Educational Achievement Awards Ceremony, held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew. She noted that after mastering her exams it was an "exciting" time to be enrolled at the Old Harbour High School in St Catherine.
"During my time in State care, I met some phenomenal persons, including wonderful house mothers," she told JIS News.
Brown, now a final-year student at the University of the West Indies, where she studies marketing and psychology, told the audience that wards had to be disciplined at the Yadel Home for Girls in St Catherine, where she was raised, and officials there motivated them to always look to a brighter future.
"There were rules that we had to adhere to, and we had to maintain respect to our house mothers at all times. I was reminded that I was not my situation, and I am not limited to it. With that affirmation, I was motivated. I was limitless in my drive to succeed," she said. Brown was elected head girl at high school in Grade 11.
"I am a remarkable product of a children's home. I was a ward of the State, and I hold that to my heart. I used to be offended at being called 'government pickney', but now, mi good. I was often teased and looked down at because of where I came from, and where I called home. As long as I know who I am, and where I am going, I never allowed what was said to jerk or move me," she said. Brown said she was relaxed and assured when she sat the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate subjects.
"I studied long and hard," she said, adding that then manager of Yadel, Kareen Mignott-Dixon, stood with them like a real mother, telling them that they would be successful.
"She came to manage the home and met 20 girls with 20 different backgrounds, and got to love us, and saw that we could become good things with our lives," Brown said.
She also commended CEO of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, as "even when we were not behaving as we should, you still cared".
Brown said she got everything to prepare for her exams, even private tutoring. She said she and the top awardees were overcomers and achievers.
"We have what it takes to reach our goals. Everything that you want is right within you. Life is what you make of it. Being a ward of the State does not limit you to achieve anything. Believe that greatness is within you," she said.