In some cultures, it is believed that names define personalities and foreshadow the life one is destined to lead. If this is true, then it would come as no surprise that Candel Elstar Cuffie is destined for stardom.
With names that claimed brilliance, (Candel which is supposed to pun on the word candle and Elstar which refers to starlight) Cuffie was raised to believe that the universe was hers to conquer if she worked hard enough, so from an early age, she started to gather the building blocks to success.
At 22, Cuffie is well on her way to achieving her dreams. Earlier this year, her hard work began to yield results and she won top honours as the global winner of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Final P4 Paper on Advanced Financial Management after just three years of study. In winning this coveted spot, Cuffie outperformed 424,000 students from 170 countries and was the first person from the Caribbean region to win this honour. This was a daunting achievement in itself, but she did not stop there. Instead, in May this year, just three months after she was informed of her ACCA success, Cuffie went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in Applied Accounting from the Oxford Brookes University in London. She has just started.
Success like this at an early age can have a significant impact on one's ego. Not Cuffie's.
As a matter of fact, the young scholar is crediting everything she has earned to God's grace and she is encouraging others to aim for the stars as well.
"If I can do it, then anyone can do it," she said during an interview with Express Woman at the compound of the Miracle Ministries Church in Chase Village, Chaguanas recently.
She gave a self-deprecating shrug and smiled, "I firmly believe that little people can win big success."
It's a neat little line that might have sounded practised, but the statuesque scholar did not leave her words to stand on their own. Instead, she went out of her way to illustrate her point.
Insisting that she won nothing through pure fate, Cuffie sought to demonstrate that her success was due to hard work, persistence, solid time management, a strong support system and faith in God.
Not surprisingly, Cuffie put her faith in and relationship with God first and described this as the framework which sustained everything else she sought to achieve. Cuffie's parents, evangelical pastors Dr Winston and Angela Cuffie, are the founders of both the Miracle Ministries Early Childhood Education Centre and the Miracle Ministries Pentecostal High School. Dr Cuffie is a well-respected educator who has received various awards for his work including the Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 2011. He has authored several books, including the novel Achieving Greatness While You Are Young. Ironically, his book seems to foretell the path the Cuffie girls would follow as each of the four siblings have carved a path of excellence in their respective fields. Cuffie is the second of four girls, and the only sibling to enter the field of accounting. Her sisters have chosen career paths in the fields of medicine, sociology and law.
Cuffie said it was her parents' faith in God and their guidance during her early childhood that set her on the path to success.
Not ones to inhibit their children's desire to learn and develop, Cuffie's parents recognised the young scholar's thirst for education at a very early age.
"I was reading fluently when I was very young," she recalled with a slight blush during the interview. "I was four years old and attending the Miracle Ministries Early Childhood School and I was reading the newspapers fluently. They tell me I even used to read upside down."
Later, when she joined the Sevilla Private Primary School, Cuffie was promoted to the 2nd year class after only four days at the school. When she was just ten years old, her school sought and won special permission for her to sit the SEA exams. She passed for her first choice at the time — Couva Government Secondary School. When the Miracle Ministries Pentecostal High School was opened in McBean, Cuffie was transferred to the new school and wrote CXC English, General Proficiency at the end of form three. By this time, Cuffie's academic prowess had become notorious, so very few people lifted an eyebrow when word got out that she had won a distinction. No one expected anything less.
For the rest of her time at secondary school, Cuffie blazed a trail of academic success, winning the school's top awards on a number of occasions and completing both her CXC and CAPE exams with distinctions before moving on to pursue the ACCA programme at the Students' Accountancy Centre in Montrose, Chaguanas.
An internationally recognised programme produced by one of the world's most prestigious accounting bodies, the ACCA exam is written in 170 countries around the world. It is a rigorous programme with a high failure rate and many persons take up to ten years to complete. Cuffie's success in completing the programme in three years and winning top honours for her family, the country and the Caribbean is no small indicator of this young girl's academic talent. The fact that she did not stop there and went on to earn a degree in a few months is a testament to her discipline and commitment to success.
In addition to her successes in the classroom, Cuffie revealed that she is also a choreographer and is actively involved in various aspects of the church including dancing, singing and speaking. Most recently, in addition to serving as an ambassador for the ACCA global body as well as for the Caribbean and for the Students' Accountancy Centre as she seeks to promote the ACCA programme, Cuffie has been engaged by a number of institutions to deliver motivational addresses to young students.
How is she achieving it all?
Cuffie paused only briefly before responding.
"Nothing is impossible as long as you have faith in God," she gave a dimpled smile. "And success does not happen overnight. Apart from God's grace, I would say hard work, discipline and effective time management contributes to my success. I am very disciplined by nature and when I was studying, I was very strict about how I regulated my time to find and maintain a balance between my commitments to God and the Church, my social life and my studies. I never compromised my time with God — He came first — but when it was time to study, I was self-motivated. I graded, rewarded and punished myself. I spent less time on leisure and more time with my studies to ensure that I maintained a level of performance that I was satisfied with."
She paused for a moment, then added humbly, "If I can do it, everyone can do it. You just have to have discipline, factor in hard work to achieve results and you will be able to face formidable challenges in life and exceed your own expectations. I have been sending this message to young people wherever I am called to speak. I have been urging them to think big, aim big and obtain big so that these can become virtual intrinsic values and virtues."
Cuffie continues to aim high. She says she is currently seeking employment for practical experience in the world of work and as part of the ACCA prerequisite to gain memebership. After that, she has already identified plans to pursue an MBA. In the meantime, she revealed that she is writing a book on her strategies for world rate success
"I want to show the world that no matter how small you are, you can have big success," she said. "Sometimes people say that Third World countries cannot achieve, but I want to prove them wrong. We can achieve wherever we are and whatever our circumstances may be."
Best of luck to you Candel!