SuperKids Literacy Programme makes big south coast investment
Great Shape! Inc's SuperKids volunteer Ryan Buechting assists New Hope Primary School student Demar Ebanks during a computer class at the school.

WHITEHOUSE, Westmoreland — A team from Great Shape! Inc.'s SuperKids Literacy Programme recently donated eight computers and accessories to Salem Primary School in this parish as part of a push to improve technological literacy among students.

The Great Shape! Inc.'s SuperKids Literacy Programme is executed in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Youth in collaboration with its agency, the Jamaica Teaching Council, and the Sandals Foundation.

The programme is an educational, humanitarian project in Jamaica in which volunteers provide curriculum, resources, and people power for language arts as well as donate school supplies, books, bookshelves, computers, uniforms, shoes, and more for the partner schools primarily.

"We are so grateful for this gesture as it now gives us the opportunity to assist our students in becoming more technologically literate," Angela Ross, acting principal of Salem Primary said.

New Hope Primary school students Alexia Williams (centre) and Chevania Poton work with Great Shape! Inc's SuperKids volunteer Susan Kahler in the literacy room.

The SuperKids volunteers, who donated and installed the machines, were beside themselves after seeing the outpouring of gratitude that this donation ignited at the school.

Ross shared with the team that, after numerous requests, the school faculty had just about given up on bringing life back to their computer lab, which has remained dormant for some time due to lack of proper working machines and resources.

Further, the experience at Salem Primary was a standout but not far removed from that of some 30 other schools visited by the team, where they installed over 340 computers over the past two weeks.

Besides Salem Primary, Great Shape! Inc.'s SuperKids Literacy Project is also working out of schools in Westmoreland and St Elizabeth.

According to Georgene Crowe, Great Shape! Inc.'s co-founder, the three schools were chosen based on current literacy rates, the needs of the schools, and the interest and enthusiasm of the principal and faculty at each institution.

Since the programme began on October 17, teams of 11 to 12 teachers and assistant volunteers have been assigned to partner with a school and facilitate pull-out instruction for students from five to six classes at each school. "Focusing on 'the Strategic Group', students who have the potential to read and are falling behind, the pull-out programme targets each child's area of weakness in reading while a variety of three-minute screeners are being used to group the children into differentiated learning stations," said Crowe.

She further noted that the intensive remedial instruction provides the children with the individual instruction they need to start making progress.

Through music, art, and sports enrichment classes, the teams also place special emphasis on language arts, writing, and comprehension strategies for all grades.

Latoya Green-Ruddock, vice-principal at New Hope Primary said, "Literacy is a challenge for us here at New Hope and so we are delighted to have the SuperKids team here volunteering their time to engage our children."

She also extended gratitude to the Sandals Foundation for collaborating with Great Shape! Inc. to make the programme possible.

First time volunteer with Great Shape! Inc. SuperKids Shirley Parsons, who has been working closely with Savanna-la-Mar Primary School, said, "Literacy is the basic foundation for anything that you're going to do in life," while pointing out that a friend encouraged her to volunteer with the programme as she's very focused on literacy and children.

Parsons added: "The children here need not just classroom teaching, but they need a lot of individual teaching, particularly after the last couple of years when there has been such a problem with COVID, the children have fallen behind. I think it's very important that we become a part of the solution to the literacy issue."

The SuperKids programme will stay in partnership with each school for three years and continue upgrades and maintenance on their computer labs for many years after.

In the meantime, while the literacy teams remain stationed in the three partner schools, a separate computer skills team has been busy installing and refurbishing computers in a number of other schools between Westmoreland and St Elizabeth. Each computer is installed with over 30 educational software programmes.

Similar to Ross, Mellissa Anderson, centre manager for the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Savanna-La-Mar, wholeheartedly expressed gratitude to the SuperKids team for seven computers installed at her location.

"This donation will aid in offering the information technology skill certification in the City & Guilds Examinations. Students will also be able to do their research papers," she noted in a thank you letter. She also expressed gratitude for the installation of computers at the desks of the centre counsellors, a gesture that will aid them greatly in performing their daily tasks. In St Elizabeth, principal of Fyffes Pen Primary and Infant School Mordant Mitchell recounts that a once-empty space at his school was transformed into a computer room in minutes.

"These computers will bring a world of educational experiences to our students and by extension our school community," he said.

He further noted that the smiles on the faces of the teachers and students were soulful and that the impact made by SuperKids and the Sandals Foundation can only be described as infinite and irreversible.

Vice-principal at Crawford Primary School Kenesha Johnson shared similar sentiments, noting that the donation of 10 computers to her school will definitely assist with the enrichment of lessons and expose the students to this very necessary piece of technology. The school did not have any computers prior to receiving this donation.

Meanwhile, Patrice Gilpin, public relations manager for Sandals Foundation said literacy is a cornerstone in the learning development of children and so programmes such as Super Kids provide a critical service to assess and support the unique needs of children at a very early age.

She added: "The Sandals Foundation believes in the power of education in giving every child an opportunity to reach their full potential and we will continue to partner with organisations like Great Shape! Inc., whose network of volunteers host highly trained professionals who are committed to making a positive difference, especially at the early childhood level."

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