Shaun Caleb gets scholarship to Princeton By Ruel Johnson
Guyana Chronicle
September 7, 2003

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LAST Tuesday, 21-year old Shaun Lennox Caleb left Guyana on a full scholarship to prestigious Princeton University.

Caleb started his secondary school education at President’s College, spent two years and then left the school, for personal reasons, to attend Queen’s College in 1995. In 1998, Caleb mastered the CXC, now CSEC, exams with nine grade one passes.

When it comes to this achievement Shaun was a bit circumspect. When asked in what position did his score place him among other contenders the year he wrote, he replied at first by saying, “It emerged as the top position among local performers.”

When asked to explain a bit more, he added only then, “For that I was given the Prime Minister’s trophy.”

Two years after topping the country at CXC, Shaun went on to become one of the top three performers in the 2000 A-Level exams, where he secured Grade A in both Chemistry and Pure Mathematics, Grade B in Physics and C in Mechanics. He had also received a Grade I in Mathematics (Unit II) at CAPE.

After leaving Queens College as a student, Shaun returned as a teacher, imparting his knowledge to A-level and CXC students in the areas of Math, Physics and Chemistry.

Now after three years of teaching, Shaun is rearing to begin learning again. At Princeton, he will major in chemical engineering, but he also plans to take advantage of several minor certificate programmes like environmental studies and finance.

There is the question of how he got into Princeton. The only academic institution harder to get into than Princeton is the US Military Academy, since the Ivy League university has an average 12.5 per cent acceptant rate. Shaun says that his success was due to a variety of factors.

Firstly, there were his performances at CXC and A-Levels, an academic résumé which was bolstered by two outstanding SAT scores, the first one 1390/1600 and the second time, 1450. It should be noted that the second higher score had not yet come in when he had been accepted.

But Shaun hasn’t been just a bookworm. He has been Head Prefect at Queen’s College; student rep on the board of governors’ subcommittee dealing with rehabilitation; a member of the CORE and Interact clubs at the school; a constant face at the annual school athletics competitions, a house captain for Raleigh House; and goalkeeper for the QC football team.

Shaun spending the last night with his friends at Guybernet. Seated to his left is Mr. Trevor Benn.
Shaun has also been closely involved with the local youth-based sustainable development NGO, Guybernet. His involvement with Guybernet has seen him taking part in several activities undertaken by the organisation, most notably the Global Youth Service Day activities the NGO has held for the past few years. Through his work with Guybernet, and his consequent interaction with many United Nations personnel, Shaun was recently elected as the first Caribbean person to sit on the Youth Advisory Council for the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

Finally, he had been provided with what he called “very strong letters of recommendation” from several people: the headmistress at QC Ms. Wendell Roberts; deputy headmistress (ag) Gem Rohlerl; Math tutor, Rudolph Deoraj; teacher, Patrick Bernard; Trevor Benn, executive director of Guybernet; Margot Singh, communications coordination analyst at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Guyana; and Ms. Carmen Jarvis, Secretary-General of the Guyana National Commission for UNESCO.

While at Princeton, Shaun plans to finish off his degree in record time.

“Conventionally it is four years, but I really intend to complete it in three years…I want to finish my first degree as fast as possible given the fact that I’ve been out of school for quite some time, having taught three years at QC. And I have certain scholarship ambitions [for] which being under twenty-five is absolutely essential.”

After Shaun returns to Guyana, he will go to work with the Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), for at least three years. Shaun will start off at the company at the management level, with benefits, which normally take six months of employment to be activated, already in place After receiving the scholarship, he had approached the company for assistance in defraying some of the costs he will incur while staying in the US and the company willingly agreed.

According to Ryan Ram, training officer at the beverage manufacturing and distributing company, “Princeton is one of the Ivy League colleges in the US and we were quite impressed with his achievement.”

Another local company that has been impressed with Shaun’s feat is the National Bank for Industry and Commerce (NBIC). The bank has given $50 000 to help him with expenses on his first year, with a promise to provide him with a further $25 000 for each subsequent year that he spends at Princeton.

The Guyana Chronicle spoke briefly to Shaun’s mother a few days after he had left. Patricia Davidson says that she is very proud of her son’s achievement. She described him as the sort of person who goes out and works hard to get what he wants, always aiming for the sky but never growing despondent if he falls short. She also said that Shaun never let his achievements get to his head, and through the years, despite his many accomplishments, he has always remained a humble person.

Princeton has recently been ranked the top US University by US News and World Report. It does not offer student loans but supports a needs-based scholarship programme based on grants and donations to the university.