Twenty-year-old Jamaican student Daija Nekeya Thompson recently graduated from the University of Alabama with honours.
Daija, former head girl of Mineral Heights Primary and past student of Glenmuir High in Clarendon, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal health science, magna cum laude. While still basking in her honorary success, she noted, however, the journey was no easy feat. The scholar told The Gleaner that transitioning and adapting to a new culture only compounded her woes of struggling to balance work and school.
“I had my moments I felt like maybe this wasn’t for me or maybe I’m not good enough, but luckily, I had friends and family, especially my mother, who would sit and talk to me for hours just helping me to keep focus. I had moments where I would have to call out from work because I was overwhelmed and still had assignments due, but I just knew I couldn’t give up,” she said
“I was fresh out of high school and it was my first time leaving the country, and not being around my mom and sister for an extended period. My journey to success was anything but a straight road, but no matter how many obstacles, curves and valleys I had, I had to find a way to keep trekking along,” she added.
Daija’s mom, Carol Walker Thompson, a teacher at Cross Primary School in the parish, said her daughter’s academic success comes as no surprise to the family.
“Her success comes as no surprise, but I thank God Almighty because sometimes the devil can spin things around. Daija was always a pleasant and bright child. Every school she went to she was known for something. She has always been determined and focused,” beamed the proud mother.
Thompson said she was not surprised when her daughter decided to pursue a career in animal health science, citing an “extraordinary love” for animals. “She saw beauty in every stray and malnourished dog and cat. When we were going out I had to make sure to watch her carefully as she will follow a stray trying to help it. From as early as grade one at May Pen High Preparatory she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. She told me she wouldn’t be studying in Jamaica because of her passion for animals and she was concerned that the universities here did not offer that option,” she said.
According to Thompson, funding Daija’s tuition posed challenges for the family, but lauded the support of relatives who provided her daughter with housing accommodation while in the US.
Thompson, who asserted her daughter as a source of inspiration, said, “I feel really elated by her success but humbled at the lesson she has taught me. She knows what she wants and she sticks to the path. She always says ‘Mommy, please pray because I am going to do this and I am determined to get through’.”
Daija has since been accepted to pursue a master’s degree in food science with a concentration in animal health at the A&M University in Texas.