Jamaican alumni fund needy students

As school gets ready to reopen for the 2011-2012 school year and students and their parents do the back to school juggling act, there is an organization of past students who are committed to providing assistance to those less fortunate from their Kingston-based alma mater, St. Aloysius Primary School located on Duke Street.

The school, which was once a Catholic run institution divided into St. Joseph’s Girls and St. Aloysius Boys has since been converted into a singular, secular, co-ed institution, St. Aloysius Primary.

These past students met recently at the fourth annual St. Joseph’s and St. Aloysius Alumni Reunion, in Orlando, Florida. Alums came in from all over to celebrate with each other but most importantly, to lend financial support to those needy students who are part of the “St. Joseph’s and St. Aloysius Sponsor A Child Program.”

The brainchild of Nodia Lewis, chairperson of the alumni association, the project was put in place to provide well needed assistance to students who were identified by teachers to be in need. Based on the information provided by the teachers, outreach is made to the parents and the selection is then passed on to the alumni association. These students range in ages from five years to 12 years.

“The first year we sponsored about 56 children, by the following year we were up to around 66 then last year, we sponsored a total of 76 children. This year our aim is to ensure that all 86 students who have been identified receive sponsorship, however we are in need of more assistance as the economy has put a damper on the level of financial assistance that is necessary.”

As chairperson, Lewis remains optimistic that though the deadline is upon them she is convinced that they will meet their goal. To help her and her organization reach this year’s goal, Lewis is putting out a global call to all past students to get involved and work through the alumni association in reaching their goal. “We are on facebook and people can also reach me directly by sending an email to [email protected],” she said.

She expressed her sincere gratitude to those who have stepped up to the plate. “Our last reunion was the smallest gathering we have had, but everyone pitched in to help the students and that’s what it’s all about,” she emphasized. “I was especially appreciative of the assistance we received this year in spite of the global crunch.” Lewis says, “I sincerely thank everyone who continues to support the “sponsor a child project.”

Sponsorship includes, each child receiving uniforms and books for the school year and some children receive assistance with their school fees. The children have expressed “how very grateful” they are via letters and emails sent to their sponsors. They also in turn look forward to receiving letters, or cards or telephone calls from their sponsors. “The students are very motivated to perform well in school as a result of this program,” says Ailley Grant, “and they do.” She pointed out that only recently all seven students who were in the program who sat for their GSAT exams passed and would be attending schools such as Camperdown High School, Meadowbrook and St. Andrew Technical.

Grant informed that, “Parents of sponsored children must volunteer at least 60 hours per year.” This can be in the area of working with teachers as class aides, volunteering in the lunch room, helping out on class trips among other things. Ailley Grant, the Jamaica based liaison between the alumni association and the teachers and parents in Jamaica.

In her report to those gathered, she pointed out that “Teachers and parents agree that since the organization has been providing sponsorship, they have seen a positive impact on the students and on their families.”

“We must teach the children and their parents to give back,” says Lewis, “it’s important they learn that they must give back and volunteer their time and resources.”

Speaking of volunteering, it was reported that a group of parents and teachers recently completed a painting project at the school. “It’s a well needed face lift,” said Ailley Grant, “the school has a renewed look and feel to it as we prepare for the new school year.” Anyone wishing to become involved in the St. Joseph’s and St. Aloysius Alumni Association should send an email to [email protected].

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