Sat | Oct 24, 2020

Tasseika soars with CAPE but med school dream hangs in balance

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2020 | 12:12 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Tasseika Dunn’s story is one of resilience. The 19-year-old graduate of Mount Alvernia High School in Montego Bay, St James, is now seeing a financial hurdle as the latest obstacle blocking the path to her dream. She is, however, not new to challenges, having faced many in her academic life.

“For one, I’m from a community known for its violence,” the Cambridge native told The Gleaner. “There were many days where gunshots were all I could hear, and fear was the only emotion I knew.”

Even as she prepared for exams rescheduled because of the pandemic this year, the tension in Cambridge remained high as in July, Jamaica’s Public Enemy No. 1, Delano ‘Prekeh Bwoy’ Wilmot, was shot dead in the community by the security forces.

Amid the unfavourable climate, she became the embodiment of Mount Alvernia’s motto, Ad Astra Per Aspera – ‘To the Stars Through Difficulties’.

When she received her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) Unit 2 results on Tuesday, she had a rush of emotions.

“Being grateful would have to be at the very top of my list,” Dunn said. “It felt good to know that God had proven Himself once more.”

She attained four grade ones in biology, chemistry, Caribbean studies and pure mathematics.

The previous year, she had received three ones and a two for CAPE Unit 1 after bagging seven ones and two grade twos in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams a year earlier.

“Even though it was mentally pressing preparing for exams in a pandemic, I knew I needed the grades and I had to work twice as hard to achieve them. I could have slacked off because it was only multiple choice, but I went and studied from my textbooks and worked through past papers,” she reflected.


The eldest of four siblings, Dunn has, through her success, showed her three younger brothers that they do not have to become a product of their environment.

She disclosed that her mother earns her keep from vending and her father is a self-employed tiler.

“In my household, the funds are low nine out of 10 times. I’ve gone to school without the money to get back home, the lunch to eat and the necessary resources required to pass. This forced me to know God for myself, and He has honestly never failed,” she shared.

Dunn said that she was undeterred by challenges as she needed to receive “the education I knew I couldn’t do without”.

After facing medical issues, she had delved into research, sparking a fascination with how the human body is coordinated to function.

Dunn had applied to The University of the West Indies, Mona, to pursue a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree, but is yet to be accepted. She believes her failure to prove that she can pay the US$28,000 medical school tuition is the primary reason.

She is among the 11 students who recently appealed to the Government to sponsor their tuition in part or full.

“The semester’s curricula is already three weeks in and we’re yet to receive a response from the Government,” she said, adding that she’s hoping for some good news within the next few days.

She is confident that God will allow her purpose to be fulfilled.