In a show of unity and benevolence, past students of Jose Marti Technical High School on Monday presented several awards and more than $1.3 million in scholarships and grants to students, employees and departments at the institution on the outskirts of Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
The contribution, made despite challenges resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is part of the year-long celebration of the school’s 45th anniversary.
Acting principal, Michelle Bogle, commended past students across the world for what she described as their unwavering interest in the school and its students.
“Even in this our worst of times with this pandemic, you have found it in your hearts to draw closer together and to give… Let us continue to give love and be our brothers and sisters’ keepers, and I pray that we will emerge from this crisis wiser, kinder and even stronger,” she said during an awards ceremony at the school.
Jose Marti Technical, built on a foundation of kindness, is a gift to Jamaica by Cuba. It commenced operation on January 10, 1977.
Not allowing that momentous occasion to go unnoticed, past students and other stakeholders kicked off the celebration with a church service at Waterloo Gospel Hall in Spanish Town on Sunday.
The following day, January 10, they met physically and virtually at the school’s lecture theatre. There, they cut a birthday cake to mark the anniversary and awarded 76 people during a ceremony themed: Preserving Our Legacy, Securing Our Future.
One of the awardees, Nickannedre Adman, told The Beacon: “I am extremely proud of myself because my hard work has paid off and the award has motivated me to continue doing good.” She was recognized for academics. In addition to having nine CSEC subjects, the aspiring attorney-at-law last year attained four CAPE (Unit I) subjects – scoring the highest grade possible in Sociology and Law.
Guest speaker, Senior Superintendent Howard Chambers, who heads the St Catherine North Police, urged all awardees to continue aiming high.
“Try all the best to always do good things so that good labels may propel you through life,” he further advised, adding that he too is a proud alumnus of Jose Marti Technical.
The various chapters of the school’s past students association have been involved integrally in the institution not only during anniversary celebrations.
The New York chapter, for example, spearheads a mentorship programme, which sees past students assisting particular students who struggle academically or in terms of resources or behaviour.
“One common goal we all share as an alumni community is to help students of this great institution reach their fullest potential…” President of the New York chapter Kevin Jellow declared in a written speech presented on his behalf at the ceremony.
“As COVID-19 continues to reshape what we know as normalcy, we continue to find creative ways to contribute to our alma mater. Our work together this year has been nothing short of commitment, dedication and hard work,” Jellow added.
Recognizing the work that the past students have been pouring into Jose Marti Technical, Chairman of the school board, Sandra Swyer Watson, urged students to join the association when they graduate.
“We are encouraging you to join the alumni associations,” she said. “You have seen them at work; you have been beneficiaries of their work.”
Beneficiaries are encouraged to, in return, maintain the tradition of giving back to Jose Marti Technical.
“You should remember your alma mater,” said Alexander Shaw, an attorney-at-law, former Jose Marti head boy, and current president of the Jose Marti Past Students Association (Jamaica).
He further said: “I am happy that the past students here in Jamaica, in New York, in Florida, in Georgia, in the United Kingdom, in Canada [and] right across the world make it (anniversary celebration) happen year by year.”
Shaw also expressed fresh gratitude to the Cuban government.
Its representative in earshot, ambassador-designate Fermín Gabriel Quiñones Sánchez, had arrived on the island a few days earlier and was yet to commence official duties.
However, he, in addressing the gathering, noted: “Jose Marti Technical High and many other schools here in Jamaica were built on the spirit of friendship and solidarity between Cubans and Jamaican leaders to build a better future of Jamaicans.” The ambassador-designate also joined some school stakeholders for photo ops beside the bust of Cuban national hero Jose Marti, after whom the educational institution is named.
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