Past students of St Jago High School in Spanish Town, St Catherine, who graduated in 1988 have awarded their first scholarship to a current student, enabling her to continue her education.
Second-former Gelissa Gordon is the first recipient of the Class of ’88 Scholarship Award which was made in the Christmas term of 2022. The scholarship covers all expenses associated with her attendance for the school year.
Working closely with the coordinator of the scholarship programme at St Jago, Dr Patricia Hutchinson of the Class of ’88 established the criteria and the most suitable student was identified.
“No different from the experiences of many students across the island, our students, too, face many needs on a daily basis. Gelissa is deserving of your assistance,” Dr Hutchinson assured. She explained that both of Gelissa’s parents are unable to work because of medical conditions.
St Jago High Principal Collette Pryce welcomed the gesture from the Class of ’88. She commended the group for their thoughtfulness and financial contributions, especially at this difficult time for struggling students who are largely from farming communities.
The principal spoke of the co-relation between the socio-economic background and academic performance, highlighting the need to provide the necessary support including mentorship for better outcomes.
Members of the Class of ’88 described their meeting with Gelissa and her mother, Yvonne Gordon, as a moving and emotional experience.
“It is hard, Miss. It is hard,” the mother explained through her tears. She did not see how it would be possible for Gelissa to return to school for second form because the family’s finances had been totally depleted. Nevertheless, she held on to faith and kept praying throughout the summer.
When Dr Hutchinson called her about the scholarship opportunity, her relief was immediately evident.
“God is so good,” she repeated as she spoke about seeing the potential in her daughter but not having the means to support her.
Speaking with the mother and some members of the Class of ’88, Dr Hutchinson said, “We want Gelissa to realise her full potential. There is a lot of support for her through the St Jago Scholarship Programme. God not only just answers prayers but He also works in some mysterious ways. You may have been looking for someone to buy her some books and so on but He had something else in mind.”
Gelissa, too, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Class of ’88. She shared her dreams of learning different languages and pursuing a career in the medical field.
“I learnt a lot that I did not have the energy to research,” she told the group after they shared their career experiences. “I really enjoyed your company. I have many other goals that I want to achieve.”
Vice-president of the Class of ’88 Association Oneil Daley is proud of the collective commitment of his former classmates, scattered around the world in more than five countries including the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Morocco, and Japan.
“I am really proud of our group. Within a year we were able to see the funds that were needed to make the award. And I am still ambitious as I believe we can have two recipients,” Daley said.
The novel coronavirus pandemic dealt a harsh blow to global economies, but to a small island developing state such as Jamaica the ravages are more devastating. When the group saw the effects on the children and learnt of their hardships to access digital devices and to continue their learning, the Class of ’88 was determined to pay it forward to a student who needed help much like many of them did while they attended St Jago in the 1980s.
Since coming together via WhatsApp group, created by Vinnette Hoffman Gibbs in 2018, the group has been using this communication tool to organise meetings regarding the scholarship funds, discuss plans for mentorship for Gelissa and other students, and plan their reunion. This year will mark their 40th anniversary of having met in first form at St Jago.
President of the Class of ’88 Association Donna-Marie Rowe is grateful for the contribution from her former classmates and their financial donations that are making a significant impact on the lives of their first recipient and her family. Rowe represented the class at the recently held Scholarship Recognition Ceremony at the school and also handed over a scholarship certificate to Gelissa demonstrating their commitment.
“We are making a difference and that means a lot to us,” she said. “This would not have been possible without the close bonds that we hold so dear among our friends from our Class of ’88. Each person gave from their personal resources and want to make an even bigger impact by seeing Gelissa through to fifth form. We will be able to do this with more help, especially from corporate sponsorship.”
Rowe explained that the group is seeking to obtain more funds from organisations to enhance their drive, in support of Gelissa and, hopefully, another student.
“We know times are tough for everyone but ‘one one coco full basket’,” she said, referring to the popular Jamaican proverb about pooling small resources.
The bank accounts for the St Jago Class of ’88 Association are managed by JMMB and are in Jamaican and US dollars.