Pilot program at Sir Ira Simmons!

Students of the Sir Ira Simmons Secondary who put together the jingle  for the after-school program.

Students of the Sir Ira Simmons Secondary who put together the jingle for the after-school program.

They may have had a bit of a spat last year over scholarship issues for Saint Lucian students to attend IIT in Chicago. But this week, RISE Saint Lucia Inc and Social Transformation minister Lenard Montoute sought common ground for what mattered most, our young people.
On Tuesday March 29, 2011, Rise and the Ministry of Social Transformation, Youth and Sports in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture launched a pilot project after-school program here. The school in the spotlight for this new initiative is the Sir Ira Simmons Secondary School where the program was launched.
During her welcome remarks Tuesday morning, Camille Leonce, a Form 5 student at the school, indicated that a Havard Family Research Project revealed the benefits of after-school programs.
“Children and youth who participate in after-school programs can reap a host of positive benefits, academic, social, emotional, prevention and health and wellness,” she stated quoting the report.
“Furthermore,” she added, “they reiterate that these are the skills necessary for the youth to succeed in this the 21st century global economy.” “As a result we feel privileged to be part of the community after-school program initiated by the Ministry of social transformation, youth and sports. Such a programme is greatly needed,” she went on.
“Today marks a significant milestone in our school’s history,” acting Principal Christine Mathurin said during her remarks. “Though our education institution will celebrate 19 years of existence, an existence that has seen many developments and achievements during its tenure, there is no doubt that the introduction of the programme such as this after school programme is perhaps one of the most significant in terms of its importance to our students,” she went on. The principal then explained that the project’s genesis was an idea to have students perform better in Mathematics.
Recognizing that students were struggling with Mathematics, the principal said Tuesday that she felt something had to be done to change their negative attitude towards the subject. “I first approached RISE seeking assistance for a simple Mathematics after school programme and after my first meting with Gemma Moses who is a representative of Rise to share my concerns and my visions for that area, in her own way Gemma started to explore avenues,” Mathurin explained. She said that the RISE executive contacted lecturers and past students but it proved difficult at first getting the project off the ground. A meeting later with Dr Stephen King ,director of RISE, would see a new vision. “He came with a plan which was simple he said. He was here to convince us that our school can benefit from doing a more wholesome program which would include more than Mathematics,” Mathurin said. While she said she understood the positive impact that other programs would have on the students she was skeptical at first from fear that the Math program would not get the concentrated attention that it deserved.
However Dr King was passionate and persuasive about the idea for a comprehensive after school programme which he said would include journalism, sports and art for which he sought funding which was approved last year by the Ministry of Social Transformation.
Tuesday Dr King was his usual passionate self during his delivery, interacting with the students and calling on them to chant “Ira” after he made each point. “What we going to do, we are going to look at the mathematics we going to look at the science, we are going to look at the sociology, we going to look at the politics, we are going to look at everything in every problem and every solution and we are going to take it all to into your community and we are going to advocate for it we are going o be on national TV, on national radio, YouTube, the internet,” he pounded. He then went to recount a recent trip to St Louis, USA, to attend the National Society of Black Engineers Conference where the 28 IIT Saint Lucian students who eventually gained scholarships were present among 36,000 participants. “They are excelling at one of the premier universities, they are on the deans list and they came through schools just like you, you can do it too,” he told the Sir Ira students. His addendum; “we need a revolution in our minds; we need to understand that the places that we can go and the things you can be are limited only by your thoughts, just your thoughts. Everything starts in your head and this after school program has to feed that mind of yours.”
Julian Delauney of the Ministry of Education said Tuesday that as DEO of district two and especially of this school that he was proud to be associated with the launching of this novel after school programme. “We at the Ministry of Education believe and very strongly at that, that this programme can provide both short term and long term benefits to all students,” he stated. The benefits he said can be manifested in the hope that the methodology used would be exciting and that the facilitators and teachers would provide what will be the best. “Secondly, we believe for a programme like this to be successful, we need continued support from members of the community. In addition you the students need to give maximum cooperation in making this programme successful and we also believe that the parents need to play an important role so that this novel idea can be successful,” Delauney intoned.
The final speaker for the day Lenard Montoute in his remarks explained that in Saint Lucia, persons below thirty five account for more than half of the entire population. “Research has shown that a high percentage of our youth are engaged in high risk behaviours which pose an eminent danger to their health and their survival. Cognizant of these trends, the Ministry of social transformation youth and sports in April 2009 commenced a community after school program partly sponsored by the Organization of American States,” he then said. According to the Minister after starting such programs in communities at first there came a need to engage more young persons, through secondary schools. “The ministry is proud to lend its support to Sir Ira Simmons Secondary School in undertaking this programme to the first secondary school on the island. We have recognized from lessons learnt from other such programs that there are increasing calls for the program to go beyond the age limit as was first prescribed and to now embrace students who are within the school system,” he stated.
The ceremony was held below a tent positioned on a dilapidated school court Tuesday as the rain came pouring down forcing students to take shelter along the corridors. The rain may have been the loudest speaker of the day, calling for a proper auditorium and assembly area for the 19 year old school a plea the principal made to Montoute who on the day was also the acting Prime Minister.
Tuesday’s launch also saw performances by the schools quadrille group, form four student Nahoma Jn Baptiste doing Beyonce’s version of “Ave Maria” and the winners of the school after school program jingle Junny Desir and Shelson Leslie. They called on the students to use the program to avoid becoming anything but a “zobie.”

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