Exceptional: that which is not included in a rule, outstanding, superior.

The above definition is so appropriate in describing our featured personality from St. Pius X. It would seem the definition was written with her in mind. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a person who matches Shanika A.’s courage, tenacity, and her complete love and faith in the goodness of God.  Shanika lives in the poor, depressed, community of Tavares Gardens in a small flat with her widowed mother, her grandmother, two brothers, a sister and a cousin.  Although Tavares Gardens is approximately four miles from St. Pius, Shanika attended Mass faithfully and was very active in the Youth Group until her entry into high school.

Due to her family’s lack of money, Shanika knew as a sixth grader she needed to be aggressive to find the means to pay her tuition to high school and college. And so began the years of struggles and sacrifice by Shanika and her mother to find the resources for her to further her education and eventually fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer.

As an academically talented student, Shanika attended the prestigious high school of The Queen’s School for Girls, as well as the pre-university school at St. Georges College. She received financial aid her first year from a distant uncle, and from the Honorable Portia- Simpson Miller, a member of Parliament who represents her constituency, the second and third year. For her fourth and final year at The Queen’s School, as well as her studies at St. George’s, she received a grant from the scholarship fund established by Jamaica Outreach Program (JOP) for deserving students of the St. Pius parish.  If Shanika graduates from Law School she will be the first member of St. Pius to earn a Law Degree.

When asked to describe herself, Shanika responded in the following manner, “I am known as a person filled with faith and a pleasant disposition. No matter how depressed I might feel, I never let it show”.  Her attitude is, “There are people worse off than me, so who am I to complain. I thank God for every day, even the days I cannot get a bite to eat, even the days I have to walk because I don’t have the bus fare to go to church or school and have to beg from strangers. I know God has a plan for me; I am willing to fight any battle and go through any struggle as I know that at the end of my trials I will be successful. Faith is what keeps me going.”

St. Pius X’s  scholarship program (funded by JOP) provided Shanika a grant this year to help pay part of her first year of Law School, and we wish her success in attaining her goals. Truly, Shanika is an exceptional person.