Manchester High's Class of '88 looks forward

Staff reporter

Monday, August 20, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Four years of planning and building momentum by members of the Manchester High School Class of 1988 culminated in a weekend of activities in late July to celebrate their 30-year reunion.

The aim of the group is to use this significant milestone as a key building block to create a robust network and ensure a sustained relationship with their alma mater.

The agenda set for July 27-29 involved a mentoring session with some current students, a tour of the campus to see the development over the years and assess what the needs are, a 'link up'with former schoolmates who reside both locally and overseas, reflections on those who have passed on, a 30th anniversary reunion gala, a commemorative church service, and a farewell beach trip.

Through dedicated fundraising efforts and a purpose-driven finance committee, the group was able to undertake activities including the handover of a $1-million cheque to Principal Jasford Gabriel at the reunion gala held at the Mandeville Hotel.

The donation is towards the Manchester High School Scholarship Fund and for improvement of the computer lab services.

Gabriel said that just having the presence of the group was inspirational.

“It gives us a burst of energy and just a lot of encouragement to do even more than we have been doing,” he said.

Gabriel said that one of the greatest challenges for the institution is to meet the multiplicity of needs with limited funds.

“The landscape has changed so much that funding now is always topical. Just recently we are learning that public sector workers, for example, will not pay school fees and that will take away a large chunk again of what used to come to school. You will find that successful schools, those that become excellent, have excellent alumni groups that will help to support the cause of our students,” he said.

Over 70 students from Manchester High School benefitted from the mentoring session with members of the alumni group, who now have expertise in diverse fields and a wealth of life experiences.

For Hope Greaves-Johnson, one of the main organisers of the alumni events and an executive at multinational IBM, it was a contribution of which she was particularly proud.

“It's probably one of the most meaningful things that I have done in my life,” she said, a declaration to which others agreed.

The audience at the gala heard of strides that Manchester High is making with infrastructural improvements, in academia, extra-curricular, in leadership and community outreach.

It was noted that the institution was designated a fully accredited STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) academy; that there is a green house on the school grounds which is enabling students the opportunity to participate in scientific projects; and that there is an active Parent Teachers' Association (PTA) assisting the school to address its needs and achieve its goal to offer the best quality education.

Commendation was given to Gabriel for his recognition as a Prime Minister's Medal of Appreciation for Contribution to Education awardee this year.

Class of 1988 member Vincent Marshall, who represented the Manchester High School staff and the PTA at the gala, said that the approach to improving the school is a holistic one. He mentioned a major project for the expansion of the auditorium to accommodate the growing student body.

“We need at least $7 million to start that project in any significant way,” he said.

Greaves-Johnson said the connection, which was formed to ensure success of the 30th anniversary activities successfully should be maintained.

“In a way this is almost like the beginning of the next phase. Let's not lose the connections… The breadth of this team has amazed me…,” she said.

Greaves-Johnson added: “When you are travelling, when you see things, when you hear things, reach out, grab everyone. We are not going to wait for just the next big reunion. We need to continue to make those commitments to the Manchester High School staff and students in big and also in very small ways.”

She said that there is a vision of getting all the alumni classes together and creating a “super” alumni group to collaborate and do much more.

The Manchester High School graduating class of 1978 had a 40th anniversary reunion celebration on the same weekend.

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