Many people may have been ecstatic about being awarded the Marjorie Davis Award for Best Overall Performance Government Schools in the 2019 Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations; not Carmetta Barry. And she views the award as “bittersweet” because she wanted the brass ring. Her sights had been set on the Paul L. Adderley Award for best overall performance nationwide.
“I am an overachiever,” said Barry, who is in her freshman year at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama, where she is pursuing a dual Bachelor’s in economics and engineering. “I was and still am that annoying student who, despite getting one or two wrong answers on the test, will beg the teacher to let me retake it to receive a perfect score. I am self-motivated, disciplined and willing to put in the hard work, [go] without food or sleep just to get the best grade in the class,” she said.
“I received the highest BJC (Bahamas Junior Certificate) for the country in 2016 and I wanted to repeat that with the BGCSEs. Truthfully, I feel as if I fell short,” said Barry. “I [had] dreamt about achieving this my entire high school career, [and] I wanted to do it for Bain Town [because] people always ask, ‘Can any good thing come from Bain Town?’ I wanted to remind them that we have a rich legacy of nation builders and academically accomplished individuals coming from Over-the-Hill.”
Despite not accomplishing what she set out to do, Barry says she still has to give God thanks in all things.
“My only excuse is that I did my best considering the circumstances.”
Barry, a C.R. Walker Senior High graduate, sat 12 BGCSEs and scored eight A grades, two B grades and two C grades.
Due to the number of national examinations she sat, she ended up having to take her school final during the same week, and unfortunately got sick during the same time period, and found herself absent from school for two days and missing some of her exams.
The final result meant Barry had to take some of her school finals and BGCSEs on the same days.
It was an experience that she said was “traumatic”.
“I thought I was going to die. The pressure was intense. In many instances, I barely had enough time to finish either the school final exam or the BGCSE.
As a result of the time constraints, I was given zeros in two of my final exams since I was not allowed to take them.”
This resulted in her cumulative grade point average (GPA) dropping to a 3.50 on her final report card.
Barry said the “perfect storm” of events that affected her GPA “devastated” her, but she was still proud she was able to pass 12 BGCSEs to earn the Marjorie Davis Award and best BGCSE English language subject results.
In her final year of high school, she found herself having to care for her mom, Grace Barry, who has health challenges; applying to colleges; applying for scholarships; and performing her tasks as head girl at her school, while serving as junior minister of the environment, president of Zeta Archonettes and working to graduate Lyford Cay’s FOCUS (Forward, Onward to College, Upward to Success) Program successfully.
“I still do not know how I survived the twelfth grade,” she said. “God is good.”
But, she acknowledges that she has a drive and determination to be the best – a trait she says she does not know from where she got it. She chalks it up to how she’s wired.
“I just know that when my life is at an end, I want to be able to say I left it all out there. I gave it everything I had. This would please me greatly. Hence, my disappointment with the BGCSE results. I did not leave it all in the exam room and the results are not representative of the Carmetta Barry I have trained myself to be,” she said.
Barry also credits her grandmother, Una Marshall, who raised her and who she said loves to see her excel.
“She gives me the brightest smile and says ‘I knew you could do it. Andros people are smart.’”
Barry said she lives for the moments she receives compliments from her grandmother and she strives to make her proud.
“I do everything just to make her proud of me.”
A college student, Barry said she craves a better life for them and said education is their bridge to a brighter future.
“Education, to me, is my way out of poverty. It is my opportunity to make a better life for my grandmother, mother and myself. It is the way to expand my curious mind and quench my insatiable thirst for knowledge.”
She also gives credit to a number of educators who have encouraged her over the years.
Barry said FOCUS and Zeta Archonettes programs groomed her into the ambitious young woman she has become.
“They saved me,” she said. “[They] fed me. [They] showed me what my life could be like if I applied myself. I can never thank them enough or tell enough people about the beauty and effectiveness of these programs. They deserve all the accolades, sponsorships, etc.”
It was to these people that Barry turned to over the years when she needed help.
Faced with her mom’s health challenges made her strong, compassionate and driven, but at the same time, she said it also forced her to grow up really quickly. Her father died when she was in the ninth grade. Barry said she had to learn to take care of herself.
“Oftentimes, I did not have parental support or guidance. I had to dialogue with teachers on my own and find someone to collect my report on report card day. I did not have mommy and daddy attending special events at school, so I learnt to never allow it to affect me. I learnt to shine in other ways. I learnt that I should be content and make what I was given matter. I was given a brain and I was determined to use it to its fullest.”
But as she forges ahead to ensure she gets an education and makes her way in life, she wishes she did not have to learn that life can be unfair and hard so early. One memory she vividly recounts is of having to iron her own clothes at the young age of seven, falling asleep while doing so, and almost burning down their house.
Barry has transitioned successfully from high school to college. She recorded a 3.76 GPA after her first semester. And in true Barry fashion, that did not sit well with her. She was not happy at all, and says she’s working toward a 4.0 and would not rest until she realizes her goal.
“I was not surprised that my natural tendency to block out everything besides school and focus primarily on grades kicked in and that it has increased even more in college.”
She said she was ready for campus life by a number of college graduates who prepared her for what to expect.
As she navigates college, she says she finds herself leaning on Ingeria Miller for mentorship.
“She has my back and will literally go to war for me. Whenever I have a meltdown, I call her and she calms me down. We discuss everything from college applications, majors, classes, sororities to clothes. We share a love for clothes and fashion.”
Her cousin Stacey Marshall, she said, is also a source of support, along with other family members.
Barry said the biggest surprise for her was the “wonderful people” at Spring Hill College who try to make her college experience exceptional.
Barry, who says the environment is her passion, said she’s fallen in love with biological engineering, an interdisciplinary area focusing on the application of engineering principles to analyze biological systems and to solve problems in the interfacing of such systems – plant, animal or microbial – with human-designed machines, structures, processes and instrumentation. She sees it as the basis for all the other forms of engineering and general enough to provide her with a solid academic foundation. She said when she views her future, she can see herself one day working in the environment ministry, and even serving as a female minister of the environment, or even at the Central Bank as its governor.
“I enjoyed my time serving as junior minister of the environment in the 12th grade and interning in the Ministry of the Environment and Housing. I would love to assist in enforcing some of the very progressive legislation we have already existing and drafting more stringent environmental laws and regulations. I would also love to see our country get out of debt, hence me attempting to attain a degree in economics.”
Barry is a recipient of the Public Schools Scholars Award ($15,000), Spring Hill University ($33,000) and a combined total of $7,000 from Bains and Grants Town Member of Parliament Travis Robinson, past teachers, friends, family and Bain Town business owners Donnie Miller and Margie Armbrister.
“It literally takes a village to raise a child,” says Barry.
When she’s not studying, Barry says she loves to “window shop online” – if such a thing exists. And as a struggling student, she longs for the days when she can actually shop and purchase some of the pretty things she now fantasizes about.
She’s also passionate about community service and volunteering, and just as she’s been helped, said she loves assisting others in need. At Spring Hill College, Barry is a philanthropy intern and a student tutor volunteer. She has also learnt that she was selected to be a residential advisor for the 2020-2021 academic year.