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St Mary academy gets boost from American travel agency

BY RENAE DIXON Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 07, 2013    

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BONNY GATE, St Mary — At 44 years old, Cilous Kelly of Bonny Gate, St Mary dreams of one day being able to attain passes at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, in his bid to become a certified chef.

These dreams have long eluded him as he did not receive even the most basic education. But when Kenroy and Simone Euter started Faith Academy in Bonny Gate two years ago, Kelly's hope of finally achieving his goal resurfaced.

Faith Academy presently offers remedial reading as well as CSEC English classes. The owners hope to partner with the HEART Trust/NTA to provide skills training to residents of the community.

Kelly said the institution has been working wonders for him and he now has great plans for the future.

"As old as I am a CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) mi waan do," a very confident Kelly told the Jamaica Observer North East.

He added: "I did not even know the sounds of words, but now mi can read things weh mi couldn't read before."

Kelly said the facility has been doing marvellous things not only for him but the entire community.

"The community welcome something like this. I hope it is here to stay," he said.

Kelly was one of several persons enrolled at the institution who shared their experiences with the newspaper at the end of a recent workday to improve the facility's infrastructure. He pointed out that the academy has challenges getting enough participants for the programme as some persons are not willing to admit that they are unable to read or write.

Lionel Brown, another student, said attending the classes "help mi good; help mi fi brush up on mi reading".

"I think this is an upliftment to the community because a whole heap a yout sit down a roadside," Andre Clarke, another student, said.

Daveen Green said Faith Academy has given him "a second opportunity to get a CXC".

In addition to its academic success, Faith Academy has recently seen significant improvement to its infrastructure, thanks to the continued support of United States charity Beach Bum CARES which seeks to provide children with aid, relief, and educational supplies.

It is now hoped that the facelift will move the academy closer to securing the HEART Trust partnership, according to Simone Euter.

Beach Bum CARES, formed by American travel agency Beach Bum Vacations, has been assisting the school for more than a year now. President Lisa Zwissler said the organisation first learned of the institution through an article carried in the Jamaica Observer in 2011. The charity has since partnered with the school's management to improve the learning facility in rural St Mary.

In December, several members from Beach Bum CARES visited the community where they erected walls, installed windows and painted the facility.

Beach Bum Vacations president Hayley Whorral, who was instrumental in getting the American team to Bonny Gate, said "This partnership that we have with Faith Academy will be a long-term relationship. We will continue to come back to visit with students even after the school has been completed," she said, adding that they will continue to help the institution by providing it with various supplies.

While Faith Academy is the first school in Jamaica that Beach Bum CARES is helping to build, the charity organisation has provided supplies to other institutions as well. But it has big plans for Bonny Gate.

"In the future, our goal is to help to build a university here," Whorral said.

Faith Academy was started by the Euters after Kenroy "got a vision" to uplift his community.

Not knowing where the resources would come from, the two started out. Just when they were about to give up in 2011, the Observer highlighted the work of the institution and it was that article which brought Beach Bum to the institution.

As a travel agency, Beach Bum Vacations has also encouraged some of its clients visiting Jamaica to go to Faith Academy during their stay.

Some of these tourists also take supplies for the school.

The school will be able to accommodate over 100 students upon completion. Classes are now held only on weekends but come September, they are expected to be held full-time.

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