Somma Chevalier brought her parents great joy after she wrote the Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) at the tender age of 11.
Her mother, Marsha Badri-Chevalier, praised her daughter's efforts after she received four 3s, one 2 and one 4 in the following subjects: Mathematics 3, English Language 3, Principles of Accounts 2, Principles of Business 3, Social Studies 3 and Human and Social Biology 4.
Described by her mother as an intelligent child and someone who grasped things very quickly, this remarkable youngster after completing her Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) Examination last year passed for a secondary school in Trincity. She then signed up for CSEC in January privately and wrote the exam alongside students who were at least four years older than her.
Now 12 years old, the soft-spoken but confident Somma elected not to go to the school for which she passed but instead enrolled as a form one student at Chevalier and Associates Limited, a private institution in Arima run by her father which she attends with her two older siblings.
The school population is approximately 100 and each class has 30 students. Her brother, Mlinzi 13 and sister Siande, 15 also wrote the CSEC examinations and secured 2s and 3s in the same subject areas. According to Chevalier a regular school day for her children starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 6.30 p.m. Apart from doing their regular subjects, Somma, Mlinzi and Siande also do lessons. Learning Mathematics, Add Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Biology, French and Spanish to name a few, Chevalier says the goal is to have all of her children do their A levels in the next two years.
Some people might say that you are pushing your children too fast or too hard, how would you respond to this? the Express asked.
"That's why I don't allow them to do too much school work on the weekends. It is their time to have fun and watch TV or play games," she said.
Chevalier said, "While I am proud of all my children, unlike my two older children who were exposed to the CXC curriculum already, my youngest, Somma was coming straight out of primary school and for her first time I think she did extremely well."
While some people would have misgivings allowing an 11-year-old to write the CSEC examination, Somma said she felt confident in her abilities and felt she was ready to write the exam alongside her older siblings. Determined, clever and obstinate at times, Chevalier says her daughter is like any regular child her age.
So how does one prepare to write SEA and then CSEC shortly after?
According to Somma there is no secret formula. It takes hard work and lots of revision in all the subject areas. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to go into the exam with a mindset that no matter what I'm going to do my best, she said.
So what is the secret to success?
According to Chevalier's brother Mlinzi—motivation
He said, "It is important to be motivated. My dad really motivates us in all the subject areas to do our best.
"Honestly if it were left up to me, I would play whole day. I am glad that my dad is there to get me to buckle down and hit the books. He says that I have a high retention level, the highest he has ever seen. If I was in the public school system I might not have been this lucky and probably just let my talent go to waste," he said.
What is it like having your father as a parent and a teacher?
"There are definitely advantages and disadvantages," Somma chuckled and said.
"For one, no one picks on you at school because your dad is the teacher. And two if I want a snack and don't have much money, I could go to him and ask. The disadvantages are if someone else does something wrong in class they would get a lecture. If we did something wrong, he would talk to us very sternly and we know not to do it again or else we would have to face the consequences. My dad firmly believes in the phrase, spare the rod and spoil the child," she added.
When Somma is not at school she enjoys reading, swimming, football and watching television. She loves watching Judge Judy and says she wants to be a magistrate when she grows up.