Remarks by Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at SAGHS Career Fair 2019
Approximately thirty years ago, I entered the halls of this institution to begin my secondary school journey, blissfully under-aware of its life-altering impact. Over a seven-year span, hundreds of ambitious young ladies ably led by a diligent academic faculty, helped to harness my intellectual strength whilst challenging my personal growth. Today, I stand here not only as the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and Member of Parliament for St. Ann’s East, but as an immensely proud alumnus; a product of the St. Augustine Girls High School. It was here at my Alma Mater, that I lived and learned to know ‘Per Ardua ad Astra’, in worship, in class, and play.
SAGHS continues to maintain a tradition of excellence, and this is the result of a fiercely dedicated support system built by you- the teachers, stakeholders, and parents. Having been a teacher, lecturer, and being a parent of three, I know that the wide-ranging demands of educators are often underrated; we are mentors, event-planners, nurses, accountants counsellors and parental-figures, and our call to serve goes way beyond the traditional school hours. And now in the age of social media, it seems that the classroom hours have greatly expanded. Yet despite these demands, there is an unstinting passion to educate and inspire students to believe in themselves and push their way to success. Some of my very own teachers- Mrs. Beckles, Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Costello, influenced my decision to become an educator myself. The very force of their will I can still feel, even today. Through difficulty to the stars.
As you may be aware, my academic background favours the science discipline. Attaining a doctoral degree in Organic Chemistry required an intense commitment to success, coupled with highly developed organizational skills. I had envisioned a career path as a scientist, educator or researcher; but there was an even greater, and certainly unpredictable calling waiting ahead.
Entering the political arena was initially daunting. I was often embattled with self-doubt, but I was never one to concede defeat. Not in A’level Biology; and certainly not today. I trusted that my spirituality, the unconditional love of my parents, husband and children, and the tremendous support from my community, would uphold me throughout this new journey which began in 2015. The one thing about my new portfolio that is extremely sobering is the fact that I am now an influencer. Every day, thousands of young women across Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region, aspire to become successful leaders because they are motivated by women like myself. Their hope has become my watchdog, and I discharge my duties with a sharp sense of accountability. I expect that when you the students ascend to leadership positions, you too shall pay attention to the footprints you leave behind…
You may know your faults, your weaknesses, your doubt, but those looking at you don’t see this- they see confidence, fearlessness and leadership. It is an awesome responsibility which must NEVER be shirked;this privilege of influence.
Now many may find that a PhD holder in Organic Chemistry, and Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, is an odd pairing. Both disciplines may appear to be on opposite ends of the career spectrum- one requires you to strictly apply logical scientific principles and calculations, and the other calls for love and patriotism. Fortunately, I consider that I have the best of both worlds, as I apply the rigour and logic of my training to the underpinning principles of ROBUST policies, processes and guidelines for the development of Culture & Arts and Community Development in Trinidad and Tobago.
Many of my days at SAGHS were spent as a member of the school’s choir and steelpan group. Indeed, it was one year-class of 1994- that I first entered the then School’s Pan Festival, under the baton of Desmond Waithe- using the pans of Exodus Steel. Mrs. Beckles was instrumental in this venture. Fast Forward to 2019: I was the proudest (and perhaps loudest, I learnt to scream at SAGHS) parent at the Junior Panorama Finals as I watched my daughters vie for top honours.
A school has such a critical role to play in the holistic development of our citizens. Along with academics, I learnt so much at SAGHS- training that I could not predict it would shape my life in the way it has. I reminisce with fondness on choir days with Mr. Persad and Mrs Lenore Samaroo each time I mounted the stage as a member of the Lydian singers; and though my daughters do not attend SAGHS (they attend Bishop Anstey),I strive to ensure that their education is as well-rounded as mine was.
Today I have imparted to you that life is unpredictable, and all our experiences are valuable at some time or the other. Who knows which of you will enter the realm of national policy-makers? Women have and continue to make impactful changes to our governance, and I say this without apology- we need more female politicians. I urge you not to be phased by your circumstances, stereotypes, or self-doubt, or the negativity of others especially on social media. Our destinies have already been written in the stars; it is up to us now to surmount the difficulties and embrace them. Becoming a Minister and a Member of Parliament has been one of the most challenging undertakings in my life, but remains one of the most impactful. I will forever consider it a privilege to have served…
I thank you for this opportunity to return to SAGHS and share my journey with you, this country’s future leaders. As I close I pray that in 30years when you return, you will say as I do now; within these hallowed halls my heart has lingered long, with memories dear; I praise with virtuous life and useful days my Alma Mater- St. Augustine Girls High School.
Do have a productive Career Fair.