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'I just wanted to prove them wrong'

Edgehill School of Special Education highlights student's success

By Renae Dixon Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 04, 2013    

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St Ann's Bay, St Ann - Up until age 11 Damion Lawrence could not read or identify letters; at age 17, he had 14 Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) subjects which include six grade ones, five grade twos and three grade threes.

Now 18 years old, Lawrence is a student at the Brown's Town Community College pursuing the arts and sciences as he continues on the journey to becoming a lawyer.

Today much of Lawrence's success is credited to the Edgehill School of Special Education.

"When Damion started at Edgehill he could not identify letters; he could not even spell his name," Principal Tabitha Chambers said.

His great accomplishments were highlighted at the Edgehill School of Special Education in St Ann's Bay last Thursday, during a presentation ceremony at the school.

Lawrence went to the school at age 11 after failing to keep up in the regular school system. With the support of his teachers and a mother who never gave up on him, he was soon transferred from the St Ann's Bay campus to the special education unit at the Ocho Rios High School.

After one year in the special education class, a very determined Lawrence was transferred to the regular school system.

While at Ocho Rios High he would still visit the Edgehill campus in St Ann's Bay where the teachers would continue to assist him.

"They worked very hard with him. I am very proud of him this morning," the principal said.

"I couldn't have done it without the Edgehill School of Special Education. The teachers have worked assiduously with me," Lawrence said, as he expressed gratitude to the teachers of the institution.

"When I matriculated into the special Ed unit at Ocho Rios High School, it was even a more greater challenge to me because I was there; I wasn't performing at the level that students were performing," he added.

However, Lawrence said he realised he had to work harder.

After going into the main stream at the institution, he said, he worked even harder.

While in grade 10, Lawrence said he decided he would sit 11 subjects in the CSEC exams.

Then when he got to the 11th grade Lawrence said he told himself that "if a student can do 14 subjects, why can't I do 14?"

"There was a lot of doubt there that I couldn't have done it coming from my background," he said.

However, what kept him going was the determination to prove the naysayers wrong.

" I just wanted to prove them wrong that listen, it doesn't matter where you coming from as long as you have the help and you have the motivation," a very confident Lawrence told persons attending the ceremony.

When asked why he chose law, he responded humbly, "Why not law? I love it."

He added that persons from his background normally do not aim for such professions.

"I want to show I can do anything I set my mind to. The sky is the limit," he said.

Lawrence could not conclude his success story without speaking of the cornerstone in his life, his mother. "She helped me a lot... she has put in a lot and she has worked hard with me," he said.

Lawrence encouraged parents with children who start out at a slow pace, like him, in school to not give up on their children.

"You don't need to push your child over the moon; you need to work with what they have so they can build up on that. You need to keep encouraging them, motivating them," he added.

Meanwhile the school was also presented with a cash donation from promoter of the Ms St Ann competition, Janet Hardie, who donated $20,000 to the institution which has been touching the lives of many.

The owner of Cabotine De Cres Boutique said she was inspired to give to the institution which is touching the lives of so many youth.

"When you can give back, it is such a great feeling," she said.

Recognising that it is more costly to educate children with special needs, Hardie said it was a pleasure to assist the students.

Tabitha Chambers, principal of the Edgehill Cluster of Schools, expressed gratitude for the donation.

"This gift will go a far way in assisting in the programme of our school," she said, adding that the donation will be used in the computer programme.

While accepting the gift and highlighting one of the school's success stories, Chambers said the school wanted more skills training programmes as it sought to prepare students to meet the challenges of the world.

"We need some more pre-training programmes coming on stream and equipment and resources," she added.

Home economics, art and craft and home management are some of the areas Chambers said she would like the students to be trained in.

Presently, she said, there are 69 students enrolled at the institution, ranging from ages six to 21.

Chambers said the school keeps students until they are 21 as some are late bloomers and may need an additional two years to help them to achieve more.

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