The Formula for Success
By Ruel Johnson
November 23, 2003
This is the second article in Pepperpot's series on the outstanding achievers in each faculty at the University of Guyana's 2003 Graduation.
LAST week, in our feature on UG's Faculty of Health Sciences best graduating student, Ronald Ross, we quoted the Principal of President's College on what he viewed as a trend in recent years with the school's alumni giving outstanding performances in their various fields of endeavour.
While Ronald Ross was busy getting himself on the school's yearly honours roll, so was Ayodele Collins, the young woman who finished her Degree in Chemistry from UG with the prize for Best Graduating Student, Faculty of Natural Sciences.
Let's begin at the beginning. Ayodele was born in 1982 in Georgetown. She, however, grew up with her aunt, Gloria Garraway-Nelson, in Linden. Ayodele says that she spent most of her time with books.
"I didn't have many friends to play with," she told us in an interview last week
She says that she grew up dancing, especially for her church, the Assemblies of God, Calvary Temple Watooka Outstation. At Watooka Day Primary School, she remembers being at the top of her class throughout her time there. In 1993, she graduated from Watooka Day second in the school, and earned a place at President's College.
Whereas Ross in his interview said that President's College taught him to be independent, Ayodele claims a different experience.
"It wasn't hard since I was [already] taught to be responsible," she told the Sunday Chronicle. "It was a pretty easy transition; I can adapt to any situation," she added.
President's College for Collins meant less chores and more free time to engage in the school's extra-curricular activities.
"I was in the steel band, choir, Treasurer of the Bible Club, leader of the dance group in the Bible Club..."
She remembers being part of the President's College Masquerade group in which she was a flouncer; something hard to believe on observing the demure and bespectacled Collins. She was also part of the Harmonettes Folk Chorale, a folk-song group led by former President's College music teacher, Kenton Wyatt.
It was during her Fourth Form year at President' College that Ayodele decided to be a chemist. What inspired her to what seems such a specific career at such an early age? As is usually the case, it just happened to be an outstanding (and, in Collins' own words, "really, really, really nice") teacher.
Mrs. Grace Henry, remembered as a strict disciplinarian and/but outstanding teacher by most PC students whom she taught, inspired in Collins a love for the science of chemistry. Under Mrs. Henry's teaching, she began to find the subject "manageable".
After graduating from PC, Collins left for Queen's College to continue her 'A' Level studies. She had felt that, with Grace Henry's migration, QC would have been better equipped for her to continue her studies there. She said that it didn't turn out to be quite what she expected. She remembers having to take lessons for all her Sixth Form courses since the curriculum offered proved inadequate.
When she signed up for a Degree programme in Chemistry at the University of Guyana, three years ago, she was exempted from most first year courses, except for English. Ayodele says that she found her required courses as manageable as her Chemistry classes under Grace Henry had been.
Although she was always within the top percentile of her classes during her three years at the University, Collins said that she never really strove to be the top student, either during her first two years or even in her final year.
"I wasn't concerned with being the best graduating student," she says, "I was just concerned with doing well. Be the best you can be."
She says that she knew that she would have been one of the leading students in the faculty on graduation day, but she was not really aiming for the top slot. In addition to receiving the University's Prize for Best Graduating Student, Faculty of Health Sciences, Collins also received the Banks DIH-sponsored Peter D'Aguiar Memorial Award for the Best Graduating Chemistry Student.
So what is the young chemist doing now? Well, in addition to her dancing, which has advanced considerably (she dances for Nrityageet), since September, Ayodele Collins has been a member of staff in, you might have guessed it, the Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Guyana. Collins is now assistant lecturer in the Department of Chemistry where she lectures two courses, Chemistry 111 and Chemistry 211.
When asked about how she is responding to being at the other side of the teacher's desk, Collins said that since she has only just left student life, she is able to relate well to her students. Her popularity isn't any lower among her colleagues. When Sunday Chronicle first contacted the Faculty of Natural Sciences for information on Collins, we were automatically drafted into a plot to keep under wraps the news that she was the faculty's Best Graduating Student. She only found out by surprise Friday before last.
As for her future plans, Ayodele is now in the process of studying for the GRE or Graduate Record Exams. The GRE are the standard tests necessary for admission to certain post-graduate programmes in most U.S. universities, functioning as a sort of high-level Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Collins is hoping to pursue her Masters in either of the very disparate fields of Food Science or Forensic Science. She says that she plans to come back to Guyana eventually to give back to the country but she says that as a chemist, her options here are very limited.
We finally asked Ayodele about what seems a passion for what may seem to most as a relatively staid profession. Ayodele answer: "At least we get to blow things up."