SINCE 2008 the Vida McWhinney-Henry Foundation has been impacting the lives of students from the Trinity Ville Primary School in St Thomas who do exceptionally well in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) to gain a place at the Morant Bay High School in the parish.
The foundation was established after Vida McWhinney-Henry's six children decided to honour their mother -- for her 80th birthday -- in a way that would demonstrate her belief in the importance of attaining a good education to move forward in life. To date, 10 students have benefited from the annual scholarships.
McWhinney-Henry who grew up in Mount Vernon in the parish raised her children in Trinity Ville before relocating to Morant Bay, and as such they were schooled at the Trinity Ville Primary and Morant Bay High schools.
Leila McWhinney-Dehaney, one of McWhinney-Henry's daughters, credits her brother Dr Hylton McWhinney for coming up with the idea of a foundation that would give back to the community.
"The foundation was my brother's idea. He wanted to focus on assisting in the development of young children from Trinity Ville Primary who were matriculating to Morant Bay High," McWhinney-Dehaney told the Jamaica Observer North East.
With that thought in mind, McWhinney-Dehaney said every year they seek out the top GSAT boy and girl from Trinity Ville Primary to award each of them a $25,000 scholarship.
McWhinney-Dehaney, however, said that while the focus of the foundation was on scholarships, they also assist the primary school in other ways.
"We give support in different ways, by assisting the Trinity Ville Primary School to get books for their library and funding for a new computer lab," she said.
McWhinney-Dehaney said while growing up her mother placed great value on education and ensured her children received the best, and as such a foundation focusing on education was a most fitting way to "honour her living memory".
"She is a true matriarch and she places value on education. The most important thing to her was that we got a good education and we could not miss school. She even developed a close-knit relationship with our teachers at school so she was always aware of our progress and that has paid off as three of her six children have their PhD," McWhinney- Dehaney said.
Sonia McWhinney-Hay, another of McWhinney-Henry's daughters emphasised her mother's values toward education and said parents today should employ some of her tactics.
"Mama instilled good values and ensured we went to school. If today's parents did what she did we would have a better society," McWhinney-Hay said.
Ludlow McWhinney, one of McWhinney-Henry's sons described his mother as his strength when times were rough.
"It was six of us and she was our rock and our shelter under that rock. We have an intangible memory with this foundation," he said.
Vida McWhinney-Henry who is now 85 years old agreed that she placed an emphasis on education for her children in their younger years. This, and good manners, she said are the way forward.
"When children have education and manners they can go anywhere in this world. I ensured that my children went to school regularly and had respect. I feel satisfied at their achievements and I'm proud that they named this foundation after me," McWhinney-Henry said.
The foundation which her children describe as a reinvestment in education is funded by McWhinney- Henry's six children and is solely kept within the family.
McWhinney-Dehaney said since the foundation was launched it has impacted the community of Trinity Ville.
"It has created an awareness in the community. Investing in children is the best thing to me, after doing it for five years, it's good," she said.
McWhinney-Henry is now reaping the fruits of her labour when she placed such a great value on education.
McWhinney-Dehaney was the chief nursing officer in the Ministry of Health, McWhinney-Hay is a retired professional secretary with the Jamaica National Building Society, Ludlow is a businessman and her other sons Hylton, Dennis and Dalton are teachers, Hylton being a professor in Chemistry at Prairie View A&M University, Dennis, a teacher in Canada and Dalton a professor in microbiology at the Houston Community College in Texas.
McWhinney-Henry, who still does her own farming and gardening at 85, has a total of 13 grandchildren and four great-grand children.