J’can shrugs off disappointment to achieve high scores

August 05, 2021
Rashida Coke
Rashida Coke
Rashida Coke
Rashida Coke

When Rashida Coke completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech Ja), in November 2019, she was not satisfied with her grade point average (GPA) of 2.42.

Today, she has graduated from Monroe College in the United States of America with a summa cum laude (highest distinction) and a 4.0 GPA. This, she says, is her greatest achievement to date. The 22-year-old recounted that while at UTech Ja, she was okay with only doing the bare minimum to pass classes.

"That's how I ended up with that GPA and I wasn't proud. Other persons were proud, but within myself I knew I could do way better. I wanted a new environment," she explained. Coke related that the search for suitable universities proved a little difficult, as her low GPA turned off many schools from offering her a space. However, an advertisement in the local newspapers pushed her to apply to Monroe College, and she was successfully admitted in January 2020.

"It was like a rush. You see some people had months to plan? I had to rush everything, from getting the student visa from the [United States] embassy, like everything was rushed. I had to do everything quick. I went through the process, did an interview by the school and I got accepted by God's willing," she exclaimed.

The tuition of US$12,000 (approximately J$1,836,000) per semester, including housing fees, was funded by her parents Clive Coke and Marcia Adams-Coke along with tuition assistance of US$3,000 in her last semester.

The Long Mountain, St Andrew, native related that the transition from living in Jamaica to living in New York City was an eye-opener, as during the 18 months at Monroe College, she pushed herself to achieve the highest grades in every course. With her dedication, she made the President's List each semester. However, during her final semesters, the learning dynamic was disrupted worldwide with the invasion of the coronavirus pandemic. Classes were shifted online and for Coke, it presented a challenge. The workload increased and deadlines were shorter, but the scholar became creative with her approach.

"With master's programmes, some students spend a day or two on a project. I can't do that, I always had to work twice the amount as the other person. I would be in the room with my roommate, and she just type up stuff so fast and she's done. I'm just like 'Wow, okay'. I have to literally take my time and go through it thoroughly, to know what I'm doing. I make sure that I'm actually taking the time out to do everything to the best of my expectation," she told THE WEEKEND STAR.

Now armed with her master's of business administration degree, with a concentration on finance, and seeking employment as a financial manager, she can't help but bask in her success.

"My mom had a major heart surgery in 2018, I almost lost her. Whenever I was at my lowest, I would remember how grateful I am to still have her with me on this journey. I really wanted to make her proud. When I graduated with summa cum laude honours, I was grateful to have her celebrate this moment with me," the Ardenne High alumna said. "This is the biggest accomplishment, and, honestly, I knew I could have done it so I feel really proud. There were many times where I had to dig deep to protect my mental space but when I looked at the fact that my parents were encouraging me and how my mother overcame open heart surgery, I knew I had to push."

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