Soaring to New Heights

By Brithney Clarke | Graduation 2017 Address at National Baptist Basic School in Trench Town


“Soaring, flying, there’s not a star in Heaven that we can’t reach.”- High School Musical

 Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, members of the academic and ancillary staff, members of the school board, invited guests, parents, and students: good evening. My name is Brithney Clarke, and I proudly wear the sash “Miss UWI Mona 2017.” With me is Miss Leneka Rhoden, Miss Humanity Jamaica 2016. Today, we will present in accordance with the theme, “Soaring to New Heights.”

I interpreted this year’s theme as “Soaring to Excellence.” By unleashing your inner potential and declaring of your goals and aspirations, you will achieve success. I’m here to tell you all that the old adage “the sky is the limit” is a myth; there are no limits to excellence. In life, there is always room for improvement and an opportunity to do more.


Close your eyes for a moment. Picture yourself in a large hot air balloon. The more you fill the balloon with air, the higher up you go. Think of this air as your lifetime experiences and achievements. The more you add, the greater you become. Now, imagine a change in weather. Thick, dark clouds appear, and the rain begins to fall and blur your vision. Your balloon begins to lose flight, but you continue to pump the warm air as you compete with the showers, and the strong winds to reach your destination. These storm clouds are the obstacles you face in life, and the greater you become, the greater the obstacles seem to get.

I began Kindergarten at the tender age of two at the Kings Gate Preparatory School in Liguanea, St. Andrew. I was a star student, always receiving certificates of excellence, awards for helpfulness, subject awards, spelling certificate, you name it. I was considered a doer and a “ring leader,” always finding a activities to engage in, bringing along willing participants who were considered to be my “partners in crime.” This was also a trait of my mother’s, who now wonders what I didn’t inherit from her as I grow older. Eventually I went on to attend one of the top girls’ schools in Jamaica, Immaculate Conception High School.

At this point, everything changed. I was exposed to a new environment filled with people of different backgrounds and capabilities. Moving from 5 to 16 subjects was a massive jump, and I experienced my first dose of a failure: I received at 23% on my very first Math Quiz. Everything became more difficult: the books were thicker, Math had letters, and the assignments were endless. But I made it through, and after five years it was time to face another academic monster: CSEC.


By now, I had already gone through six career choices and found myself on the brink of confusion. But my greatest challenge at this point was not about what I wanted to become or whether or not I would return for sixth form, but rather how to overcome MATH. By then, I had clearly not recovered from my Grade 7 shock, and each year Math had prevented me from making the Honour Roll, often by just .05 %. I was frustrated, and I knew it was time to take initiative—Math would not win. I purchased three past paper booklets dated 1999 to 2013, and I worked every single past paper question from backwards and forwards, in the time leading the examination. On August 15 at 12:15 AM, Judgment Day arrived.  I opened the portal to see a Grade 1 in Mathematics, bringing my achievements to 7 Grade 1s and 4 Grade 2s. I was elated.

Sixth form was my moment to shine. After my success in CSEC, I had finally realized that I was capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to. I became Miss Immaculate in the year 2015, and I had finally made it on the honour roll after 6 years. I had passed through both years of CAPE and was on my way to attending the University of the West Indies, where I would begin to actualize my true potential. I stand before you today as a proud 20-year-old first-year Student at CARIMAC, with the titles of Miss Preston 2016 and Miss UWI Mona 2017. And ladies and gentlemen, this is only the beginning.

I could not have accomplished all of this on my own. My family has been the epitome of a support system. Parents, continue to support your little ones, and be the hot air that propels their balloons to greater heights. There are no limits when you are surrounded by people who believe in you, by people whose expectations are not limited to the boundaries set by society. Expose your little ones to as many opportunities for growth as possible. It is through trial and error that we learn from our mistakes.

Children, never be afraid to ask for what you want. Stand up and speak out. You are our future leaders.

I congratulate you, students, for achieving this milestone and I applaud you, parents, for standing by them.

Thank you for listening, and I hope your balloon journey is a fantastic one.


Brithney Clarke is Miss UWI Mona 2017 and a Marketing Communications student at University of the West Indies.


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