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Sunday, 16 June 2013





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Fourteen year-old Lankan shines in US

Eugenie de Silva Prof. Eugene de Silva

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a common question frequently posed when we were children. A nurse, a doctor, a lawyer or a pilot would be the usual answer. But has anyone come across a child who would say that he or she wants to be the Defence Secretary of the United States?

Fourteen-year-old Eugenie de Silva, of Sri Lankan origin, living in Harrogate, Tennessee, USA is not the average teenager. Her goal is specific and the path to reach that goal is pretty clear cut. She wants to be an intelligence agent for the US government and later its Defence Secretary. Looking at the level of success she has already achieved academically at just 14, one may presume that she might indeed be the future Defence Secretary of the United States.

Her academic excellence is such that she has already enrolled at Harvard University to follow a Master's degree in Legal Studies at the tender age of 14, when students her age are heading to the 9th grade. She has already finished her first assignment for the class even before it has begun! Her classmates will be in their 20s and 30s at Harvard University.

Eugenie graduated high school three years ago and she completed her first degree this year with a Bachelor's in Intelligence Analysis from the American Military University. Not only did she pass the course, she obtained a perfect 4.0 GPA, earning Summa Cum Laude. Needless to say, Eugenie has never had a grade below A in her school report cards. She has even received the Virginia State Award for High Honours in Mathematics and Verbal Talent from the John Hopkins University when she was just 9 years old.

Eugenie making a presentation

Eugenie has co-authored a book on research with her father named Multidisciplinary Research for College Students, which is being used in some college research courses. Added to that, she has presented research papers on national and international forums since she was 11 years old which received first place each time. She had also published two children's books.

To whom does she owe this passion for research, to excel in education and have such high ambitions? the Sunday Observer asked Eugenie. "I was guided by my father. He has a unique method of teaching," she said.

Eugenie's father, Prof. Eugene de Silva, is a Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Walters State Community College and founder of the Virginia Institute of Research. After his education in Sri Lanka, he migrated to the UK to continue higher studies.

"I teach through research," Prof. de Silva told the Sunday Observer. "The system developed and modelled by me is now being implemented as a pilot project in the State of Tennessee, USA. The program is run through Walters State Community College under the auspices of the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Department of Education," he said. "Through the Virginia Research Institute in the USA, I will soon promote education in a different manner through our branch in Sri Lanka this year," he added.

Prof. de Silva spoke about the education system in Sri Lanka and the need to move away from examination- oriented education. "We need to get away from purely memory-based testing and assessment to practical and purpose -based approach," Prof. de Silva said.

"We have so many A grades in the GCE Advanced Level Examinations, but we are still waiting for the Nobel Laureate," he added. Prof. de Silva pointed out that there should be a change in our country's education system where the qualifications would actually mean something more than just a paper that qualifies one to apply for a job or seek entrance to a degree program.

In Sri Lanka, an after - school tutorial culture has been developed where going to school is not considered sufficient, Prof. de Silva said adding, "we need to get the students to move away from the rat race."

Eugenie seconding her father said many children have the skills to complete their studies, but are not appropriately guided or given the necessary opportunities to progress and build upon their abilities. "As I have learned from my father, taking part in educational activities must be viewed as fun, rather than work," she told the Sunday Observer.

It is not just 'all work and no play' for Eugenie. She has hobbies too. She plays soccer and has a Brown Belt in the Martial Arts. She also plays the piano. She had even won first place at beauty pageants conducted in Harrogate, Tennessee.

With such an impressive record in extra-curricular activities, she does not forget her ultimate goal. After her Master's Degree at Harvard, she hopes to do her Ph.D in Intelligence Studies in the UK. "I strongly believe in equality, recognition of human rights, and opportunities for all; thus, my activities would all be guided by these principles," says Eugenie.

Goals are important to set a person on course.

They keep us focused and help us to be on track, and take the right decisions. Eugenie is indeed an inspiration for her peers.

"I believe it is important for you, the youth of today, to realise that you can and will be the leaders of tomorrow. Set up your goals early, and continuously strive to go beyond the restrictions that are set by society today. Anything is possible if you have the dedication and devotion," she told her peers.


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