As part of efforts to bolster the health and safety measures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, members of the graduating class of 1989 have donated $600,000 to their alma mater, Oberlin High School, to help with sanitation projects. The funds, which were handed over on Tuesday, April 6 with the presentation of a ceremonial cheque to the school’s Principal, was raised through the contribution of approximately 50 members of the Class of ’89 and other alumni representatives of the West Rural St. Andrew high school.
The donation will significantly enhance the ability of the school to meet the stipulated protocols of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as well as those of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, the Hon. Fayval Williams commended the efforts noting, “It is great when past students can look back to their schools from which they came and get involved with initiatives like these to help the school.”
The Minister indicated that, even as the nation looks forward to the resumption of face to face classes, the approach will be revised.
“We know that it’s not going to be the same as when we went into the pandemic. The children and teachers have gotten more use to technology so we are going to see a blended approach to learning as we go forward. We will still see lessons in the virtual world and with that we will be able to bring more information, more knowledge and more resources to the students so they can have a richer experience,” said Minister Williams.
In accepting the cheque, Principal of Oberlin High School, Michelle Spencer shared, “I am feeling very optimistic and very grateful for the initiative of the past students to come on board at a time when we are really in need.”
Principal Spencer outlined, “Safety is our number one priority so most of the money we receive will be focused on buying additional sanitizers, soap, alcohol, sanitary products and masks,” Prior to Covid-19, Principal Spencer continued, “ We had begun building a hand wash station at the lower school however we were not able to complete the project. These funds will help us finish the hand wash station as well as replace a water pump that was stolen by thieves in early 2021.”
In August 2020, four members of the graduating class of 1989 and another from the class of 1991 began a fundraising initiative by galvanizing support from their alumni across Jamaica, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. She was assisted on the initiative by class of 89 alumni Neil Howell, Dennis Rainford, Winston Dawkins and Karen Gayle Danvers from class of 91.
Nola Wright, the brainchild of the fundraiser, said the initiative was inspired by a news article she read where similar efforts of a close friend at another prominent high school raised $300,000. “This initiative was born out of the “I can do that too” feeling. I really wanted to help my school in meeting the COVID-19 measures in order to make the environs a safe space for students when face to face classes resume.”
Wright said, “We hope that this effort will inspire other members of the Oberlin alumni to get involved and see how best they too can help their alma mater.”
Oberlin High School is home to some 1600 students and boasts a rich 75-year history of academic and co-curricular excellence. The institution has an enviable record as three-time winners of the national competition, All Together Sing, stellar performance in athletics and offers a wide range of traditional and technical courses with 29 Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC), 2 City and Guild and 2 National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) subjects.
In spite of its rich tapestry, the rural located school faces significant challenges in funding its programmes and operations as most of its students’ parents are within the lower socio-economic background.
Principal Spencer welcomes the support of the private sector and regular Jamaicans to partner with the school, noting that every donation goes a long way.
“Don’t say that what you have is too small. Our school is very resilient and very creative, so whatever you can provide to help build our school, we will be more than happy to receive it. This is a community school, so when you contribute to the school, you are helping the development of the community,” said Principal Spencer.