A 49-year-old mother-of-five is being hailed as a role model after managing to overcome odds, including pregnancy that forced her to drop out of high school at age 15, to become a college graduate.

The feat is not new, but what is unique is the determination showed by Yasmin Gordon to achieve the goal despite suffering an extraordinary number of setbacks.

Among the setbacks, Gordon – over a period spanning some 20 years, starting in the 1990s – tried close to 10 times without success to pass the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations that would allow her to matriculate to college.

What’s worse is that Clarendon-based Gordon had to repeatedly endure the pain of people telling her that she would not amount to anything good in life.

Gordon with two of her children.

“Imagine dropping out of school as a teenager, trying to take CXC on numerous occasions and failing,” Gordon told Loop News as she recalled the disappointments.

She said a lack of family and financial support were behind much of her setbacks, explaining that, on at least five occasions, she studied hard for CXC but just could not raise the necessary funds to pay for the exams.

To make matters worse, after having her first child, Gordon would go on to have four more children before passing her first subject.

Months would turn into years with Gordon, who was mostly a single mom over that period, having to put a hold on her dream of earning a degree in order to provide for her children.

Undeterred, she would later enroll in a police youth club in her community and that was where friends continued to encourage her never to give up on her dream.

Determined, she worked odd jobs to make ends meet.

“At one point I worked in a bar, I even worked as a housemaid and later would get a job as a caregiver at a basic school,” Gordon said.

She used part of her mere $3000 a month from working at the basic school to enroll in private classes with a view to finally getting over the CXC hurdle.

She eventually took over her CXC subjects, passing four after close to 20 years of trial and failures.

Having four subjects was not enough. She needed five to matriculate into college to start her degree programme.

She was given a lifeline by the Catholic College of Mandeville, which allowed her to start the degree programme – but told her she had to pass CXC mathematics in order to graduate.

Finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Gordon made the trip from Clarendon to school in Mandeville almost daily.

“People around me used to ask how did I do it but I was determined to make good of myself,” Gordon said.

In late October, the dream would finally come true and Gordon managed to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in primary education.

As she walked up to the podium to collect her certificate, tears streamed down her face as she reflected on the journey of dropping out of school at 15 and raising five children, her eldest now over 30 years old.

“The day felt like a dream to me when I realised that what I had worked so hard for had finally come through,” she told Loop News.

She had a message for young people.

“With hard work, anything is possible. I just want to use the occasion to call on young people out there to stick to their dreams,” Gordon said.

“Many times I see children not going to school, even though they are getting support from their parents; I want to let them know education is very important,” she added.

“It took me several years to realise my dream but I stuck to it – use me as an example that with determination you can achieve,” Gordon said.