Boy from Savai'i Samoa's top English student
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
This famous quote by India’s founder Mahatma Gandhi kept 17-year-old, Cisco Antony Pesamino, grounded in his final year in college.
It was what led him to score 97 percent in the Samoa Secondary Leaving Certificate (S.S.L.C.) English exam, making him the top English student in Samoa.
A Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed his English exam mark when contacted by the Samoa Observer.
Mr. Pesamino, who was also the 2019 Head Boy at the Tuasivi College in Savai’i, was the valedictorian for the 2019 graduating class.
It was an achievement which he said came "unexpectedly”, in an interview with this newspaper.
"I never expected this achievement. I just sat the exam that day like the rest of the other students. I did not think that I would top it,” he said. "What I do know is that I gave it my best and my all to earn good marks...nothing more."
Asked about where he draws his inspiration from, the 17-year-old said his parents inspired him the most in life, as he grew up seeing how they provided for the family.
“I grew up seeing how hard they work to provide for our family and how much they sacrifice, so we can get everything we want. I see how life can get really hard sometimes, yet they still make sure we have food to eat and make sure we have everything we need for school.”
His parents’ hard work and sacrifice motivated him, though he admits his academic achievements cannot equate to how much his parents have done for him.
"That pushed me to the best of my abilities and motivated me to work hard and make a change for both of them. This is just a mere thank you for their hard work. I know it doesn't match the work they've done and will continue to do, but I know I draw my strength and courage from them to achieve what I can to the best of my ability,” he said.
Having said that, Mr Pesamino credits his parents and English teacher for his achievement to becoming Samoa’s top English student, as they pushed him in school.
"They (parents) were my biggest supporters. They (parents) and my English teacher pushed me with my English, especially my mother...I still remember when I was young, my mother would always buy me books to read and even newspaper articles to read. I fell in love with reading since then and didn't want to stop."
Despite the challenges he faced with time management, Mr. Pesamino said his final year will always be special.
"It was the best year for me," he admits. "I would describe it as a miraculous year because there were many things that we (seniors) achieved that we never thought we could. Topping English in the S.S.L.C was one of those achievements.”
While 2019 was full-on for students in Samoa with the country hosting the 2019 XVI Pacific Games in July before the measles outbreak three months later, Mr Pesamino said last year was still his best.
"One of the challenges that I faced was time management. It was really hard for me to try and balance my studies at school and at home,” he added. “I had other responsibilities at the school which made it hard to juggle with my school work, and at home there are so many distractions and lots of chores.”
Another challenge was the lack of resources and learning material to assist with his studies and research, but he took it in his stride.
Ultimately, he aspires to become a lawyer one day, but he knows he has to keep working hard for his parents and family.
"That is the ultimate goal. I just want to keep working hard and keep doing my best for my parents and for my family," he said. "But all in God's perfect timing and will. I will just keep pushing myself and work hard and let God decide what lies ahead for me and my family. I want to work hard, study hard, find a good job and support my family."
Mr Pesamino is the son of Peter and Sara Pesamino from the village of Fatausi and Lano in Savai’i and was an art student last year, majoring in history and geography.