Jamaican Sainna Christian, 23, made history when she was named one of the three valedictorians at LeMoyne-Owen College, in Tennessee. She and two other women achieved a 4.0 grade point average and tied for the title of valedictorian for the first time in the history of the college.
This is not the first time Christian has been recognized for her academic success. She graduated from Glenmuir High School having attained 20 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination subjects with 14 Grade Ones and six Grade Twos. She then received a full academic scholarship to LeMoyne-Owen College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting.
Christian noted the socio-economic obstacles she faced on her journey, sharing that her family had to figure out how to pay for her schooling and attendant expenses. Her needs were always covered, she said, but there was little left over. “Needs were always covered, but wants weren’t entertained very often,” she said. Christian grew up in Western Park in Clarendon and said her greatest challenge was to remember that the environment in which she was raised did not define her. She said she did not grow up in the “most ideal community,” and it took work to overcome it and not be the product of what she saw in her environment every day.
At her US college, Christian was a student council representative and headed one of the most influential protests on the campus, bringing change to student governance at LeMoyne-Owen. She always kept her studies at the top of her list of priorities, even as she served as student government president, a peer tutor, and a volunteer in various programs and internships. It was important to her to keep up a high-grade point average in order to be competitive when she applied for future opportunities. Christian gives credit to her family for her success. See the sacrifices her mother and grandparents made for her; she understands how important their support was in helping her achieve her goals.
Her future plans include exploring “the root causes of economic disenfranchisement in Jamaica” and helping to develop solutions that will ensure the stability of the country’s financial markets, provide economic empowerment to under-resourced and less-advantaged communities, and work toward a future where the nation’s policymaking has a direct impact on the structural problems that arise from economic inequality.
She advises students not to “choose what’s prestigious or what others want you to do.” She believes that students are more likely to succeed if they pursue their passions.
Photo courtesy of Sainna Christian