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Alisa Alvis – more than a bright spark

Alisa Alvis – more  than a bright spark

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College student – 2000: “I’m intrigued by the human brain.”

by Jamila Soso-Vincent 05.DEC.08

The last time Alisa Alvis graced the pages of SEARCHLIGHT it was September 29th, 2000. The occasion? She had been awarded one of five Island Scholarships to pursue studies at the university of her choice. Additionally, she had been the only one of the bunch who had successfully completed four subjects apart from the mandatory General Paper. So, eight years later, we took the opportunity to catch up with this bright spark.{{more}}

With an A in General Paper, B’s in Biology and Mathematics, and C’s in Chemistry and Physics, Alisa was a shoo in for the Island Scholarship award. A high achiever from day one, high grades had never been a foreign concept to her. In 1998, Alisa gained eight grade I’s and two grade II’s. Before that, she placed 3rd overall in the 1993 Common Entrance Examinations.

Back in 2000, when she was awarded an Island Scholarship.

In her interview with SEARCHLIGHT in 2000, the then 18-year-old shared her ambition of pursuing a medical career – in particular Paediatric Neurology. “I’m intrigued by the human brain,” she had stated. Her interest in that field had been sparked after her father had suffered massive head trauma in an accident when she was six years old. “His convalescence was very difficult…” Added to that, she had been in the Science classes at the Girls’ High School, so it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that medicine would be her natural path. However, as it is with this funny thing called life, directions change.

Now an Educational Psychologist working in the Ministry of Education, Alisa may not be the Neurologist she had planned, but her profession still reflects her interest in the human brain. She deals with students who have emotional, psychological and behavioural difficulties that prevent them from having the “…optimal educational experience.” Through cognitive behavioural therapy and other techniques, she tries to teach them the skills required to return to the classroom.

So what caused the change in career? Taking a gap year before going to university, Alisa became involved in a pilot group for AS Psychology at the Community College. She gained a grade A and found that she had really enjoyed the course. “If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have taken psychology as an elective at university. On attending the University of Toronto, Alisa became heavily involved in tuition and mentoring programmes for inner city and minority high school children. “It was during this time that I really started to realize that my niche was in youth work… to help them achieve a sense of mastery in their work,” she recalled. “It was extremely gratifying.” Additionally, she found that she was enjoying her psychology modules more so than her biology and neuro-anatomy modules. Although she wrestled with the decision, Alisa knew she was making the right choice by switching her major to Psychology in her third year at university.

University of Toronto Graduation photo from 2005.

After gaining an upper second-class honours degree in BSc. Psychology Specialist with a minor in Caribbean Studies, Alisa returned to SVG in 2005 and began work as a CAPE Lecturer at the Community College. She left again in 2006 to pursue an MSc. in Psychology of Education at the University of London in the UK. In 2007 she was awarded a high distinction for her degree.

As nerdy as it may sound, it is apparent that Alisa loves being in school. “I’m most comfortable in educational settings. If I had more time I would just do course after course to learn new things,” she admitted. Alisa also admitted that her time spent at university changed her. “It was life altering!” Far away from home, her time spent in Toronto was her first time living on her own and she found it daunting at first. But as time passed, she found her own niche and made life-long friends.

Comparing the two cities, Alisa related that although she had enjoyed her stays in both London and Toronto, she had felt more at home in the latter. “The wet dreariness of London can be so oppressive!” she exclaimed.

A Master’s degree is not the end of her educational career, though. She hopes to embark on a PhD in School and Clinical Psychology next year to become a licensed clinician. Her ultimate ambition is to be able to contribute to the research community on educational issues that affect those in the Caribbean. “I hope that I will have the opportunity to work in educational reform… in the Caribbean. The world is changing and our children are changing along with it. If we are to create productive citizens, we have to start in the schools.”

Delivering a motivational speech at the KCCU Scholarship Awards 2008.

This 26-year-old tries not to be all about academics, though. “I’ve always been active and some kind of athlete, and that has continued,” she said. At age 17, she began playing squash. At the University of Toronto she was on the Varsity Women’s Squash Team, and currently coaches younger players at the Squash Complex. A black belt in karate, she also coaches in that sport.

Quite the busy bee, Alisa recently resumed her dance classes – practicing and performing with the Arabesque Dance Company. She is also an Assistant Guider with the No. 7 Petersville Brownie Pack. “I try to stay busy! Beyond that I like to relax with friends and family. You can’t get so caught up that you don’t have time to lime every now and again!”

To young people on the cusp of choosing a career, she advises them to follow their hearts. “Anyone can have a job… to be truly happy is to find something you love and make it your career. Make sure you are living your dreams… as opposed to what someone else has foisted upon you,” she encouraged. “… Be prepared for things to digress from what you anticipated. The only thing that is certain is that nothing will go exactly as planned.”