Sibling rivalry is as old as time, but for one young lady there is a strong push in her to do everything her brother does, and then to do it even better. And it seems Barrise Griffin is on her way. Her brother was named Gentleman of the Year in 2005 and Barrise has followed suit. She was recently named Debutante of the Year.
"It's still a shock to me that I actually was named Debutante of the Year," said the St. Augustine's College graduating senior. "But I feel privileged to have this honor to my name. I'm glad they picked me," said the 16-year-old.
Barrise was one of 53 young ladies from various high schools who over a six-month period were exposed to social graces that they would need to carry them through life by the Bahamas Debutante Foundation, of which Cristina Johnson is president.
"The process was interesting and I learned a lot of things that I did not think I would need in life," said Barrise. "I knew I needed table etiquette, but the way that you present yourself and first impressions I didn't know were so strong in society, and I'm glad that debutantes actually taught me these things because I am a young lady stepping into society and now I am prepared to step into society," she said.
She also found helpful topics relating to how to speak in front of people; how to act like a lady and carry herself; how to dress according to her body size and business etiquette. It was a program Barrise signed up for because she felt she had to know what she would need as a young lady.
While she's proud to be named Debutante of the Year, Barrise also has the brains to go with her social graces. She is graduating high school with a 3.45 cumulative grade point average. Surprisingly, she does not attribute her study habits and work ethic to a parent, but rather her brother -- the same one whom she does her best to do better than.
A role model big brother
"Throughout the years watching him work hard, get straight A's, being successful... I was just like I can't be overshadowed by him. I studied him, watched what he did and followed suit and just became a mini-Barry. I see how ambitious he is and I wasn't very ambitious, but then I picked up his work ethic and became ambitious as well. I have to make my name known as well," she said.
Barrise admits that there is a huge sibling rivalry -- at least on her part.
"There is a big sibling rivalry. [Barry] comes out on top most times because he's the oldest, but I'm impressed by him because he's passionate about what he does, and he does not take no for an answer. He's a go-getter. Everything that I see him do and if he gets hurt by it, he just rises up on top again and makes everyone know that a little obstacle in his path won't defeat him."
Barry, 23, is a law student at King's College in London.
Even though she has tried for years to best her brother, Barrise said there were a few years when she scaled by. She never found herself in a failing situation, she always made the honor roll, but looking back, she said if she had applied herself, she could have done even better.
"In grades seven and eight I was like I'm in high school I might as well just have fun, let's see what all the hype is about in high school. Then in grade nine it just hit me. We had to pick the electives we wanted to study and I was like I have to get serious now. And then Barry who was already in college was telling me how life was going to be rough and that I had to get serious. It just hit me that I had to get serious."
Barrise said she put her game face on and made the switch. She sat six Bahamas Junior Certificates (BJC) and was graded at A in Math, English, Social Studies, General Science; B in Health Science and C in Art.
She's currently sitting seven Bahamas General Certificates of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams -- Math, English Language, English Literature, Spanish, Economics, Biology and Chemistry. She said she prepared well and was confident she would do well in all of the senior tests.
And she plans to study bio-chemistry with a view to becoming an orthodontist.
"When I was little and had a shaky tooth, I stood up on a stool and it [stool] slipped from underneath me, and I fell and hit my tooth on the bed and it came out. My mother said to put it under the pillow, that I'd get money from it. The next morning I checked under the pillow, money [$5] was there and I said wow you can get money from teeth, I got $5 for one tooth and there are 32 teeth, I said this is my dream job."
Barrise has received partial scholarship offers from Caldwell University in New Jersey and the United World College of Costa Rica (UNCCR). She's currently weighing her options. Caldwell has the best dentistry program which would allow her to complete her bachelor's degree in three years before moving on to an affiliate program at Temple University for her dental degree. But UNCCR is also alluring, as it will afford her the opportunity of experiencing a different culture.
"And I do I want to explore the world, experience different culture, see what it's like," she said.
While Barrise prepares to begin the next phase of her educational life, her thoughts she said are still on besting her big brother, but it's something she wants to do as Barrise as she moves away from trying to be a "mini-Barry".
"The sibling rivalry will be there for the rest of my life, but I want to be Barrise. I don't know if I'll be on top of him, but I want to at least be on equal ground with him. He's older than me, so he's always going to be like three steps ahead, but I won't stop going after what I love," she said.
A proud father
If you ask her father, Barry Griffin Sr., Barrise has no need to pattern herself after her brother.
"To be honest, for some reason I've had more faith in her than she's had in herself. I've seen her stepping above her brother, because she's a natural. Her brother studies a lot. She does not study as much as he does, but she's still on par with him. So I always tell her if she applies herself more, she will rise above him and that the only person stopping her is her," he said.
And there is no one prouder of Barrise's accomplishments than her parents Marie and Barry Griffin Sr. And her father was excited for the opportunity to escort his daughter to the Debutante Ball. He was even eager to learn to waltz so that he could dance to Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father" with his Barrise. It's a song he always told her they would have to do for her father-daughter dance at her wedding.
"Barrise always says we're more excited for her than she is for herself. When we were told as fathers what to wear and how to dress for the Debutante Ball, I was prepared almost a month before the event," he said. (That embarrassed Barrise a tad).
For Barrise's father the Debutante program was also a learning experience that he found amazing. He especially enjoyed the father-daughter day. It allowed him to show the close relationship he has with his daughter and how well he knew her.
During the question and answer segment no question they threw his way proved to be difficult. He correctly answered that Barrise's favorite color is gray. That she likes the music from Queen and Elvis. (Actually he's gotten her hooked). That she loves fruit and will eat it everyday -- and it doesn't matter what kind of fruit it is. He also knew that her shoe size is eight-and-a-half.
He was also disappointed that there were some fathers who did not take advantage of the opportunity to be there for their daughters.
"At the ball, there was a particular young lady whose father could not make it because he had to go to work. I said at that time, that no work was more important, because that was a moment in time that you would never get back. So you had to seize the moment. I believe in spending time with your children. I always try to be there with Barrise ... whenever," he said. "Sometimes I can almost feel when she needs my presence and I can pop up and offer what I think she needs. And for some reason, 90 percent of the time that is what she needs. When you spend time with your children, it's your greatest reward," said the proud father.
Her father's love for her and willingness to be there for her embarrassed her a little, but Barrise said she knows she's fortunate, because there are many children who have absentee fathers.
"It means a lot to me to know that no matter what he's always there for me. He says he's my number one fan and it's good to know that I have that support team with me," she said adding that her mother is just as excited for her accomplishments as well.
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