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CedarBridge pair have an eye-opening experience at PSAT prep

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Two cousins this summer became the first CedarBridge Academy students to attend a prestigious international college preparation programme overseas.

Devonshire residents Jahcoa Smith, 16, and Jarissa Benjamin-Smith, 17, gladly sacrificed Cup Match to spend July at the Oxbridge Academic Programs workshops in New York.

The programmes were initially founded to give middle and high school students a European academic experience at Oxford or Cambridge in the UK, or studies in France and Spain.

“It’s been around for 25 years, and this was the first time they had the course in New York,” explained Jarissa’s grandmother, Muriel Smith.

She said she was so impressed with the course that she sent information about the programme to middle and high schools around the Island.

The cousins were the only CedarBridge students able to attend out of the 17 who qualified on the strength of their PSAT exam scores.

“Meeting people from all over the world was a great experience,” said Jarissa, who hopes to continue a family tradition by studying at Virginia’s Hampton University.

“It’s a course that shows you can’t just procrastinate. I learned how to pay attention, apply myself and go through with it.”

For Jahcoa, living in a dormitory with students from 32 other countries proved an eye-opening experience.

“I was thinking about going to university in the UK,” she said. “I ended up changing my mind. We got to see Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and New York College.”

Her new first choice is the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania. The girls’ journey started last October, when CedarBridge students took the PSAT multiple-choice exam, as preparation for the SAT college admissions test.

School principal Kalmar Richards explained that US-based Oxbridge, which tracks PSAT results, approached CedarBridge last term hoping to broaden its diversity with students from Bermuda.

“All of our year S3 students and our S2 honour students are required to take the PSAT,” Mrs Richards said. “Many of our students have taken advantage of workshops overseas, but these young ladies are the first I know of to do this one.”

Students received their Oxbridge invitations in March.

At $6,795 for the New York college experience, many of the 17 chosen found the price a little high. Jahcoa and Jarissa were assisted by friends and family.

Along with tours of the five colleges and trips to museums and sites of cultural significance, the July 3 to 30 Oxbridge programmes required students to pick major and minor study topics.

For Jahcoa, who hopes to become a forensic scientist, a major in journalism and a minor in studio art offered the chance to broaden her horizons.

“For forensics, you learn about the human body and causes of death,” she said. “It’s about finding out what went wrong. Bermuda doesn’t have many forensic scientists, so I plan on coming back here after school.”

Jarissa plans to study environmental science. She majored in art and planning, with a minor in psychology this summer and, like her cousin, hopes to work in Bermuda after university.

For both young women, their chosen fields will begin with bachelor’s of science degrees and long years of schooling six to eight years, in Jarissa’s case.

“It’s something you’ve really got to want to do,” she said.

Both are headed into their final year at CedarBridge this September. Their summer experience will help with the applications and college visits coming up this autumn.

Said Jahcoa’s mother Sheniqua Hay: “She’s been very talkative since she got back from New York, and she gestures more when she talks. They must have gotten some public speaking classes.”

The two admit to getting the inevitable round of questions on the existence of the Bermuda Triangle. However, Jahcoa said, they also came home with “a lot of friends a lot of people to keep in touch with”.

Added Jarissa: “We just missed Cup Match. But there will always be another one.”

Useful website: www.oxbridgeprograms.com

Cousins Jarissa Benjamin-Smith (left) and Jahcoa Smith: just completed the Oxbridge pre-college programme in New York.

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Published August 20, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated August 20, 2011 at 8:40 am)

CedarBridge pair have an eye-opening experience at PSAT prep

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