Wednesday, 22 September 2010




Written by: Gwyneth Harold

Move over prestigious service clubs, past students associations are now the place to show philanthropy and social responsibility.

It is only a few days into the new school year but men and women of sports are showing that they are not dropping ball, baton or catch as they rally support for the schools that nurtured them into the well-rounded individuals that they have become.

Executive leadership of these associations are securing pledges of cash and time to serve the students now enrolled in those hallowed halls and fields of learning.

Leading the charge are naturally those schools that have a long tradition of unbridled school spirit. Vice President of the St Hugh’s Past Students’ Association and Director of Compliance & Internal Control at the Financial Services Commission, Janet Johnson Haughton, has marshalled a team of past students to launch, with the blessing of new Principal, Deaconess Elaine Cunningham, the Big Sister Programme (BSP). Targetted at Grade 7 students, it aims to help them to identify personal goals and to learn how to balance serious study and wholesome play.

Johnson Haughton, who played on the Senior Squad at the Netball World Championships when she was just 16, says that the programme is intended to complement the mentoring programme of the Association and to encourage discussion and activities in the areas of: civics, etiquette, care of the environment and the home, family life, modelling, public speaking, relationships, tolerance and conflict resolution, careers, African history and volunteerism. To date, 30 past students have registered and there are plans to include overseas alumnae in sessions using the Internet.

Working alongside her is UWI Lecturer and language specialist in the Department of Educational Studies, Joan Spencer Ernandez and Jamaica Millennium Motoring Club champion Lady Driver and IT professional, Gina Tomlinson. The call is being made in diverse ways including the the St Hugh’s High School Alumnae Association Facebook website and also the Unofficial St Hugh’s Hugh School Facebook website, reaching more than 2,000 individuals.

On Saturday September 17, IT Professional and veteran track and field coach, John Messam, announced a similar programme at Calabar High School as a way to regularly expose his boys to positive male role models. Mr Messam said that the goal is for each class to be adopted by a past student. A tangible output of this programme is that the interior of each classroom will be maintained by the boys and their mentors, including having it freshly painted.

Mr Messam, a former national junior record holder in hurdles and current president of the Calabar Old Boys' Association suggested that the school's culture of balance and excellence could not be passed on by legislation but by the interaction of fathers with sons, brothers with brothers, old boys with present boys, and in former times, boarders with day boys. He insisted that all the boys needed to progress academically and needed spiritual nurturing and that interaction with old boys through the mentorship programme was a key first step. He felt that this was critically important for Jamaica as it was the preservation of a way of life.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Pan Caribbean Financial Services, Donovan Perkins, who was the guest speaker at the dinner endorsed the call for a balance of academics and sporting involvement of boys; Mr Perkins was a player on the legendary 1977 Calabar football team which brought the school it first Manning Cup Championship. In his address, Perkins said that it was important to ensure that boys got a chance to learn and he pledged $1 million of his personal funds to start a Scholarship Fund for deserving boys. He was supported by fellow classmates Kerby’s Hardware Executive, Mr Charles Phillips; Real Estate Consultant, Mr Emile Findley; Executive Director of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Dr Gladstone Hutchinson and Chief Parliamentary Council, Mr Albert Edwards.

Captain of the National Combined Martial Arts Team, Jason Mc Kay, who was one of the three past students honoured at the COBA dinner gave the ultimate pledge that he so loved Calabar that he is preparing his only son for his old school. He is doing his part as he coached Calabar to become the national schoolboy champions in Tae Kwon Do.