MONTEGO BAY — In keeping with its commitment to educational and community development for the current school year, the Sandals Foundation has invested $8.2 million in scholarships, back-to-school drives and school upgrades across the Caribbean.
Approximately 38 high school students and 11 undergraduate students have been awarded scholarships totalling more than $3 million. Six of these were granted to teachers who are furthering their studies as part of the Sandals Foundation's plan to support teacher training.
"Education is a big component of our mission and we're very grateful to be in a position where we can assist teachers who are already in the field as well as students who are working so hard at making their dreams and ambitions a reality," said Heidi Clarke, director of programmes of the Sandals Foundation.
One such student is Tonya Pratt, who is now in her last semester at Barry University, finishing up her Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a major in marketing. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, Pratt is looking towards her Master's in International Business.
Pratt, who has been appointed to the Dean's List at Barry, gives back to her community as community service chairperson for Women of Distinction, an organisation with the aim of preparing young women to become successful professionals.
"The scholarship has been very helpful as it has always been a gleam of light, making my education possible ever since I was attending Montego Bay High School. The Foundation made me feel like I was doing something right by doing well in school and working hard to get the grades I had attained," she said.
According to Clarke, the Sandals Foundation recognises the value in having a consistent presence in the lives of the children and young adults that it supports.
"We believe that education has to be approached holistically, it's not just about the money," she asserted. "A big part of what we do is keeping track of students' grades, what they do to give back to their communities, providing intervention if necessary and just being a source of support for as long as we need to be.
"We are also greatly committed to the 26 schools we've adopted in the Caribbean, always ensuring that the children and teachers feel good about their achievements and their surroundings," Clarke said.
More than $600,000 went into back-to-school drives and treats in the parishes of Portland, St James, St. Ann, and Westmoreland as well as in St Lucia and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Infrastructural upgrades valued at $3.5 million were carried out at five schools in Jamaica and in The Bahamas, where LN Coakley High School received a new multi-purpose court.
Additionally, the Reading Road Trip — voluntourism initiative put on by the Sandals Foundation in partnership with Island Routes Caribbean Adventures, continues to be a hit among guests of Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts. This year, the Sandals Foundation invested more than $670,000 in new material to boost literacy levels at its adopted basic schools in the Caribbean.