Case Studies

Syona, Achieve

13th June 2024

With support from the Achieve programme, Syona has succeeded in an incredible personal and academic turnaround, propelling her from the bottom of her class to the very top.

Syona, 14, lives in Jamaica with her mother and younger siblings, and describes herself as ‘50% class clown, 50% loner’. She often used to skip school and, when in class, was very disrespectful towards her teachers. But not anymore.

Syona explains that the Achieve programme, with its small groups and caring, supportive guidance, boosted her self-confidence and prompted dramatic changes in her attitude and behaviour.

As a result, Syona’s school grades have soared: she has more than doubled her average scores.


‘I came first in my class,’ Syona says, with pride. ‘From first grade to seventh grade I came dead last, eighth grade [there were] 47 of us and I came 45th, and now I’m first.’


When Syona’s mum heard about her daughter’s triumph, she cried with joy.

Skills and confidence

Achieve, designed by King’s Trust International, is a modular skills programme, delivered through Junior Achievement Jamaica (JAJ). It offers hands-on learning in small groups, giving students the chance to build key life skills such as teamwork, communication, setting goals and making plans to achieve them.

JAJ trains up teachers to deliver the programme in schools, aiming to enhance students’ academic learning by boosting their capacity to join in and make the most of their lessons, so they can reach their full potential. Sometimes offered in after-school clubs, in Syona’s school the Achieve programme is integrated into her business studies class. It is her favourite lesson.

Achieve has a strong focus on building confidence as well as skills, and Syona highlights the key role that her Achieve advisor, Ms Simms, has played in encouraging her to believe in herself. This has been at the heart of her transformation. ‘If you don’t believe in yourself, no-one else can,’ she explains.

The foundations of a future

As Syona built her self-esteem and self-confidence, her approach to school shifted dramatically, and she describes her previous truancy as ‘outrageous’. Now if she doesn’t feel like talking or actively engaging with a lesson, Syona’s standard response is no longer to skip the class or disrupt it. ‘I just sit at the back and pay attention,’ she explains. And while she often used to ask her older siblings to do her homework for her, she now completes it all herself.

Like the other Jamaican schools who deliver the Achieve programme, Syona’s school is in a disadvantaged neighbourhood. Many local families face financial challenges, and there is significant gang activity and street violence.

By committing to her education, and seizing the opportunities that come her way, Syona is putting in place the foundations for a better future. One day, she hopes to become an accountant or an entrepreneur, perhaps even running her own school. She already enjoys teaching her younger siblings, drawing on the techniques that Ms Simms has used with her. With her impressive grades and her positive approach, she has every chance of success.

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