“Yo Scady, UWI graduation is this month, I’m the Valedictorian for Social Sciences and there’s another Saint Lucian as Valedictorian for Science and Technology!” That was the message I received from YenverCeazar that lit up my eyes and had me as excited as a child on Christmas day waiting to open the many gifts under the Christmas tree – but, there was a problem. I was praying that my bad habit of answering Whatsapp messages in a timely fashion (I replied about two hours after the first yo) wouldn’t be reciprocated and that one of our passed cover features would introduce me to a possible future cover candidate.
We met Zia Zanasha Barnard after her manager at Baron Foods graciously allowed her to travel from Vieux Fort to Castries for our interview. The humble resident of Balembouche, Choiseul must have been as excited about the interview as we were because she sported the brightest smiles and was most upbeat throughout the duration of our journey to the Voice offices.
Zia Zanasha Barnard grew up in an extended family with her grandmothers both maternal and paternal, her parents and four siblings. Her early schooling enabled her to stay close to home attending the Piaye Primary School and Choiseul Secondary School. Upon graduation she moved to the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College where she pursued her A-Levels anddeveloped her passion for Biology and Mathematics.
After successfully completing her studies at The Morne Campus she took a year off from school and took up a job as a Form 3 – 5 teacher (Biology, Mathematics, Human Social Biology and Integrated Science) at the Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School Campus B. With University on her mind she was adamant to save her earnings in order for her to pay her way through school. Zia affirmed that it was during her tenure teaching Biology that she realized it was her true passion and after being awarded the UWI Open scholarship she decided to pursue Biology at UWI ST. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago.
The ease of selection for her was possible not because she would have been heading to the mecca of entertainment in the Caribbean (her track record confirms that she can successfully balance a social life) but because of two specialization courses which greatly intrigued her – Biotechnology (the use of living systems and organisms for industrial, medical applications) and Microbiology (the study of living organismssuch as viruses that aren’t visible with the naked eye).
Zia, a lover of Soca King Machel Montano explained the complexed world of Biology to us we couldn’t help but ask her what difference she would like to make with her knowledge. A joy overcame her upbeat personality as she exuberantly explained one of her main goals. “One of my main goals is to make a difference using my passion – Biology”. “I’m hoping to screen some microbes in the Caribbean so it can be applied medically, industrially and so forth”.
Her beliefs were also tested on what she thinks need to change in St. Lucia to make our island better. Her answer was far removed from the cliché we are used to. Zia confidently stated that the island needed an addition to the health care system in molecular testing for microbes to identify the types of microorganisms someone is infected with, as molecular testing gives quicker results and can help with diagnosing the problem and then administering specific treatment. She, however understands that as a small developing nation the finances may not be readily available but she isn’t giving up hope and is ready to lend her expertise.
The 23 year old UWI First Class Honors graduate made the island and her family proud when she graduated with awards and achievements that included Valedictorian for the Faculty of Science and Technology & Faculty of Food and Agriculture 2017 graduation ceremony, University of the West Indies: Trinidad and Tobago (2017), First Class Honors, University of West Indies: Trinidad and Tobago (2017), Best Year III Performance in Biology, University of the West Indies: Trinidad and Tobago (2017), Best Performance in Biotechnology, University of the West Indies: Trinidad and Tobago (2017), and Miss First Class, Sir Arthur Lewis Hall of Residence: Trinidad and Tobago (2017) to name a few.
Her journey has only just began. Currently she is employed as a Lab Technician at the Agro Processing firm, Baron Foods that boast over 165 locally produced products on their line (they are more than just the place giving us the best hot sauce). The company also has a plant in Grenada and another on the way in Trinidad. Zia is tasked with maintaining the high standards and quality that the company has set for their products. The former Vice President of the Island Associations of the Year, University of the West Indies Guild of Students and current Youth Ambassador for the National Youth Council continues to advocate for the increase involvement of young people in new and innovative careers in Science as well as Climate Change and Health and Safety.