Aug. 24, 2008 — One thing noticeable right off the bat is Godwyn Defreitas' big, bright and friendly smile. But he didn't always have a lot to smile about academically. Defreitas' path to success started off pretty rocky, until he enrolled at Kingshill School in 9th grade and found he can accomplish what he sets out to do.
"In public school the teachers didn't try to teach me and work with my issues," said Defreitas, a 17-year-old senior. "I just wanted to have fun and do whatever I wanted to do." In his early school years, he said, he spent a lot of time in a chair outside the principal's office.
His mom, Eliza Joshua, had heard from a friend about the success of other children attending Kingshill. She came to the conclusion that the small classes and individual attention students get there was what he needed.
"He wouldn't be the person he is today without the help he got at Kingshill," said Joshua. "The teachers there helped build his self-confidence and self-esteem."
All of the teachers at Kingshill are caring and have a positive vibration about learning, said Defreitas.
Janie Koopmans, director at the school, said Defreitas is an exceptional student and very caring towards other students.
"He picks up on other students needing help and steps in to help them in a nice way," Koopmans said.
Defreitas was born in New York City, and his family moved to Christiansted when he was just a few weeks old.
Defreitas went to elementary school at Pearl B. Larsen where he did get needed one-on-one attention from one teacher, Ms. McNamara during summer school. He danced in the Pearl B. Larsen Quadrille Dance Group while in elementary school.
His mom enrolled him in Randolph Lockhart Christian Academy when she realized he wasn't getting what he needed in public school. While attending the academy he had aspirations of becoming a minister, according to his mother.
Defreitas said science and history have always been his favorite subjects in school.
"History is like an interesting story time for me," Defreitas said. He said Sue Cissel, history teacher at Kingshill, is his favorite teacher. "Miss Sue is a good teacher with interesting stories when it comes to history," Defreitas said.
Cissel said he called her and set up a conference call with another classmate during summer break — just to talk.
"How many kids would actually call a teacher during summer vacation?" Cissel said.
Defreitas' mother has always tried to keep her six children busy with after-school programs and other things such as taking part in organizations like the St. Croix Unity Coalition (SCUC). The mission of SCUC is to reduce alcohol, tobacco and other illegal drug use among adolescents and helping children to make positive life choices. He has been involved with SCUC for the past six years. He said he has enjoyed taking part in the Annual Teen Summit hosted by SCUC held at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) St. Croix campus. The summit is a drug/alcohol/violence free interactive educational forum held every year in July.
He has been active in the Boys and Girls Club where he learned Taekwondo, which taught him self-discipline.
The past two summers Defreitas had the opportunity to work in the U.S. National Park Service summer youth program at Fort Christiansvaern where he did painting and landscaping. He said as part of the eight-week program they got the chance to spend two nights at Buck Island observing sea turtles nesting. He also had the chance to work with the reintroduction of the St. Croix ground lizard to Buck Island.
"These experiences triggered in me the idea of doing something with the environment as a career," Defreitas said.
Koopmans said Defreitas had a very high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test administered to eleventh grade students. The test is used to determine qualification for enlistment in the U.S. armed forces and a recruitment tool.
Defreitas scheduled an appointment with National Guard recruiter Wendy Green to find out the perks offered by the guard — such as paying for part of his tuition this year at Kingshill. He signed up to become a part-time guardsman and was sworn in in June. He is a private, doing weekend drills once a month. After graduation in June he will go off to basic training for nine weeks.
"Signing up for the guard makes me so proud of him," Joshua said. "To see him go from a troubled child to the person he is today, with confidence and self-esteem, makes me even more proud."
In his free time he said he enjoys listening to soca and calypso, which is part of his Trinidadian heritage. Defreitas also enjoys travel and going on cruises throughout the Caribbean. He likes to go to plays at the Caribbean Community Theater (CCT) and Good Hope School. He said he really enjoyed the recent production of "Chicago" at CCT.
When asked about some of the problems kids have today, Defreitas said they have to want to change their behavior.
His plans are to attend UVI for two years then go off-island to college.
"I will definitely focus on environmental studies and history while in college. I love St. Croix, so I would like to come back home after college and possibly work for the park service," he said.
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