A SCHOOLGIRL has bravely overcome tragedy and adversity to pass 11 GCSEs.
Gemma Doherty, 16, was already facing an uphill struggle for exam success as a carer for her blind grandparents who she had lived with since an early age.
But she was hit with tragedy when her granddad died suddenly as she was sitting her exams.
It was further heartache for Gemma, who had already had to cope with losing her dad to cancer at the age of 33 when she was just 10 years old.
Yet she amazingly overcame the odds and yesterday was thrilled to pick up 11 top grades, including a coveted A*.
Gemma said: “Before granddad died, he told me to do the best I could – so I did it for him.”
Gemma was a registered carer for her grandparents Ernest Johnson and Joan Johnson, both 66, at the home she shared with them in Kingsley Avenue, Hartlepool.
While other teens were studying and enjoying themselves, dedicated Gemma was at home caring for her grandparents.
The loss of her granddad was a second tragedy for her as she lost her dad, Thomas Johnson, 33, to cancer on May 25, 2005.
Because of their dedication many young carers fail to achieve academic success, but Gemma was determined to prove any doubters wrong.
She knuckled down in her school work, and was hard at revision when her world was turned upside down on February 17 when her granddad died.
She went on: “I looked after them whenever they needed things doing.
“When my granddad died, it was really hard. My mind was everywhere at the time, but I managed to pull through.”
Determined Gemma even went to English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College on the day her granddad died to complete a final project for her food technology course.
Despite her grief, she then went on to sit all of her exams and was rewarded yesterday with 11 A* – C grades.
“My granddad died right near my exams, so it made my revision and everything that bit harder.
“He told me to do the best I could. I did it for him.”
Grandma Joan said: “Her granddad and her dad would have both been so proud.”
Gemma, who still cares for Joan with the help of friends and family, plans to continue with her studies.
She added: “I plan to stay at Martyrs college to do food technology, psychology, maths and chemistry.”