Students at the Gros-Islet Secondary School are still bubbling over with joy over their recent success at the Junior Achievement Awards Gala held last week at the Marigot Secondary School. The school cast a vast shadow over the competition as they walked away with three of the most prestigious prizes; Company of the Year, Achiever of the Year, and the Governor General’s Award for Innovation, Creativity, and Originality. The group also took home the top prize for best records, second place for highest rate of return, and third for attendance.
Head of the school’s business department, Martina Belizaire, who also acts as the chapter’s teacher advisor, believes that the Junior Achievement Program is an effective tool to prepare students for the workforce.
“This program was implemented in schools in order to help the children develop a sense of entrepreneurship. The key thing about junior achievement is that the children learn to be independent. Upon leaving school if they can’t find a job they have the first hand knowledge as to how to go about creating their own business or even brainstorming on business ideas, how to get investors in order to pursue that dream.”
Belizaire added, “Junior achievement helps a lot in terms of building team spirit because they have to come together as a collaborative unit in order for them to make the company grow and one of the other things you really have to be good at is sales. You have to know how to sell to various people, how to try to motivate people to buy the products and even buy the shares from the company because even before you start to invest in any product idea or service, you have to sell all your shares in order to get your initial capital. So they learn that in order for you to get your resources needed for your business, you must sell shares and attain the required shareholders.”
This year’s student company was dubbed ‘Irie Deals’ with the tag line ‘Irie Products, Irie Deals’. They offered various trinkets ranging from shoeracks to keyrings. In order to generate more capital for reinvestment, they held mini events including ice-cream sales and car washes. However their primary offering was designed to target several objectives in one go.
“Our major product was the exercise books we created specifically for the form one students. What we did was purchase exercise books in bulk, we removed the original cover and then we designed a new cover for the exercise books which we figured would market JA, the school, and at the same time the form ones would have an opportunity to learn the anthem because that’s one of the problems we’ve had, where the form ones take a little while to learn the anthem and it’s the homeroom teachers of form one that are charged with the responsibility of teaching these children the anthem,” Belizaire explained. “So one way to ensure that our sales would have been locked in was to put it as part of their registration package. So the students had to purchase a minimum of three exercise books, which they would need for classes that are not really demanding in terms of notes. Another key objective we had was to also ensure that JA had some measure of publicity, some form of marketing.”
The venture raked in over four thousand dollars in sales.
“When we liquidate we pay off all our debts, and the rest of the money in terms of profit has to be paid back to our shareholders in the form of dividends. We pay salaries to the children who worked, they get commission on sales so it is also a motivating thing knowing that the more I sell, the more commission I make. Now payments are not high it’s just to really instill in them the value of being employed, working towards a goal, working towards some sort of livelihood for yourself and for your family. So you see even the practicality of it teaches them that you have to work hard in order for you to reap some sort of success or benefit from what you do.”
Belizaire was also effusive in her praise of the Achiever of the Year, Merkella Edward, who nabbed three thousand dollars, a tablet, and trophy for her victory. The sixteen-year-old has developed quite a reputation for excellence among her peers and teachers alike.
“Merkella was president of the company, she is also president of the student’s council, she’s a go-getter. She just participated in G factor, which is a singing talent show. She’s a form five student who is top of her year. So she is somebody who motivated the others, she has a lot of team spirit. Those who are lapsing she pulls up their socks.”
Despite her numerous accomplishments, Edward admits that she was stunned by the latest honour.
“I was speechless,” she laughed. “I became weak when I heard that. I cried, I did. It was a very exciting moment for me. Right now getting that award it motivates me more because I accomplished that and I realized if I can accomplish National Achiever of the Year I can do so much more in the future.”
The talented teen views the program as stepping stone to a prosperous future and recognized those who helped her along her journey.
“The Junior Achievement Program is a very exciting program. You can learn a lot from it. It’s beneficial. I think that it could help you in your subject areas especially if you are a business student. It will push you and make you go further in life when you leave school. In the future I want to become a doctor. But my plan on the side, I was kind of thinking of opening a restaurant. I would like to thank the volunteer teacher of our program Mrs Martina Belizaire, Ms Shana Eudovique who was an assistant, and my principal for pushing us to achieve.”
Principal Delia Alcindor-Charles, is elated by the accolades her students have received and hopes that their steady progress dispels any negative connotations held towards the school.
“I would like to say how pleased I am with our achievement and hats off to Mrs Belizaire and her team and the JA students. It indicates that this school is second to none and sometimes we get stigmatization in the community. A lot of our students may not have done well at common entrance but when they come here we see them excelling and that is a sign of a school where a lot of work is being done.”
After representing St Lucia at the Junior of the Americas Company of the Year in Uruguay last year, the young achievers are not resting on their laurels. They are slated to submit an entry for this year’s installment, which will take place in Mexico.