New York, USA — Students at three St Mary-based schools — Marlborough and Belfield primary and St Mary Technical High (formerly Richmond Secondary) — are to receive help with their education as a result of initiatives by two members of the Diaspora here.
The initiatives are being spearheaded separately by Rev Dr Marilyn Grant, a 2021 recipient of the US Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award and Milton G Hanchard, former principal of Belfield All-Age (now primary) School.
Dr Grant, a past student of both Marlborough primary and St Mary Technical, will be assisting with scholarships under the Women for Christ Outreach Ministries and the Marilyn Grant Scholarship Programme, both founded by her and operating out of Connecticut.
Her effort is in fulfillment of a pledge she made last year to expand both programmes to Jamaica. Earlier this year she provided the first scholarship worth US$1,000 to Laylor Smith who was deputy head girl at Marlborough primary at the time.
Smith was adjudged the winner of an essay competition on the topic The Foresight of My Future. She is now attending St Mary High School and wants to become a medical doctor.
Three other students of the school, which has a population of just over 50, were each awarded US$100 for participating in the essay competition. Dr Grant has also indicated that she plans to organise other past students to undertake improvements to the conditions of the playing field and the teacher's quarters.
She has further plans to work closely with the principals of Guy's Hill High, situated on the border between St Mary and St Catherine, and St Mary Technical as well as the Port Maria-based GrantKennedy Learning Centre, an independently run school, to determine what assistance could be provided for those institutions.
In the meantime, she said that past students have already undertaken some level of renovation at St Mary Technical, which should make the learning process more habitable.
The school, which operates two campuses, has a student body of over 1,100, according to its website. It was established in 1970 as Richmond Secondary but has undergone several name changes and has had new subjects added to its curriculum since.
For his part, Hanchard said he has adopted the school he formerly ran and will be a principal fund-raiser, seeking to coordinate and galvanise stakeholders, especially former students in countries abroad and in Jamaica, to assist in the further development and success of the school.
Since adopting the school this past June, Hanchard said he has assisted three students with funding for registration ahead of the new school year. Two others have been helped with funds for books and other equipment.
In addition, Hanchard said a new organization — Friends of Belfield, which he is now putting together in collaboration with Belfield All Age alumni – has already provided supplies, including school bags worth more than $150,000 for the new term.
Hanchard was part of a group which, last year, provided tablets and other teaching materials to the school, which has an enrollment of 120. He said he has also been working with many past students who are currently residing in the United Kingdom, the US, Canada, and Jamaica to assist the school at various levels.
The former principal said he was inspired to adopt the school because of his own difficult experience while attending Mico Teachers College (now The Mico University College).
Hanchard spoke highly of the current principal of the school, Michael Calvert, a past student of his, crediting him with "doing a great job in ensuring the high standards of the school are maintained".
Hanchard also counts among his successful past students, prominent Kingston attorney Hugh Wildman, a former director of public prosecutions in Grenada.