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Without God, I wouldn’t have made it through, says Soleil

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Soleil Graham (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

In 2019 Soleil Graham would not have believed she would be on the path she is on now.

The Berkeley Institute student is the first person to earn an associate degree from the Bermuda College’s premedical programme.

Soleil, who plans to become a doctor, leaves in August for a five-year programme at St George’s University in Grenada.

At the Bermuda College’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, she described her journey as a “challenging” struggle through a full load of courses, mainly sciences.

“It was a feat that required burning the midnight oil and stepping outside of my comfort zone,” said Soleil, the Graduate Speaker for the Class of 2022. “Had it not been for my God’s everlasting and unfailing mercy and love, I would not have been able to complete 79 credit hours of mainly sciences. I would not have been able to carry five courses almost every semester and concurrently tend to my duties at the Berkeley Institute.

“I would not have been able to deny myself certain temporary luxuries so that I could use the time to study instead; and I would not have been able to complete six courses during the last semester. No, I will not claim to have had that strength, but will profess that there is indeed a God who has never left my side.”

Soleil moved to the island from Jamaica in 2019 with her mother, Vandanna Clunie-Capper, a language teacher.

At the end of the school year, the 18-year-old sat the College Placement Test and ultimately signed up for the dual enrolment programme offered to high school students.

“I have the type of brain that wants to know, to understand how things work,” said Soleil, who graduates from Berkeley next month.

“Science has always been very intriguing to me. I've always done all three sciences. So when I came here in 2019 and I was getting into Berkeley, I asked if they could please put me in all three pure sciences.”

It was a “very unusual” request as most students opted for co-ordinated or integrated science classes, Soleil said. “But I wanted to do all three pure sciences because that's what I was used to from before in Jamaica.”

Instead of being put off by the extra workload she was encouraged by the opportunities the dual enrolment programme offered.

“When I saw that I had qualified to be a full-time student I was so excited. It didn't really throw things off for me because it's not like you have to do English at the high school if you’re doing English at the college. The only things I had to do at Berkeley were the graduation requirements. But they're not very challenging. So it wasn't very hard.”

Soleil Graham is the first to graduate with an associate degree from the Bermuda College’s premedical programme (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Although the added courses required a great deal of sacrifice, Soleil was interested “because I like to look at the bigger picture of things".

“I did still see my friends because I still had to go to Berkeley [for the courses] that I had to do, but I’m not a very social person. I'm not the average teenager who is interested in only social media. People have told me that I’m a very old soul. I enjoy going to school, enjoy learning new things, so it didn't mess up my life.”

She thinks she inherited her love of sciences from her father, a chemistry and maths teacher in Jamaica.

“I'm not exactly sure why science is the route that I've chosen but when I think about business and English courses, I don't really do as well at those as I do with sciences. The sciences are just what's easiest for me, what I think I have the aptitude for.”

Being the youngest in her classes “was a bit unusual at first”.

“But I got used to it quickly. When I was interacting with them, they didn't treat me as though I was only a child. Everyone treated me as though I was a regular adult just like them so it wasn't really that weird for an extended period of time.

“Also, when I started the programme, everything was remote because of Covid. We were actually never fully in person throughout the two years that I was at the College. It was just towards the end of the year that we started going on campus in a hybrid question fashion. It was mostly online on Zoom. So I think that's sort of lessened the impact of being a bit too young.”

Soleil will be 24 by the time she completes her studies in the West Indies.

“The premedical programme at Bermuda College is new. I'm the first person who ever signed up to do this. They only launched it in 2019,” she said.

“[St George’s is] a seven-year programme but because I’ve done the two years at the Bermuda College, I’m able to enter into Year 3.”

Her parents are “just over the moon” about all she has achieved.

“They're really excited and they're so proud of me,” Soleil said. “I've always wanted to make them proud. This whole experience has just surpassed all of my expectations. I didn't expect to be graduating from college [in 2022] when I came here in 2019. I just wanted to do well. Thanks to God for always being there for me, always helping me and just blessing me with this, because this is an amazing gift.”

Learn more about the Bermuda College’s Dual Enrolment Programme here: https://bit.ly/3lyJzuX

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Published May 24, 2022 at 7:43 am (Updated May 25, 2022 at 8:00 am)

Without God, I wouldn’t have made it through, says Soleil

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