In 1880, a young Roman Catholic woman, Jessie Ripoll, bought a 43-acre property, and transformed it into the Alpha Cottage, where she admitted a single orphan girl.
Over the years, as the institution’s population grew, so too did its purpose and importance to the Kingston community, and in 1892, it was transformed into an elementary school with the assistance of the Sisters of Mercy from England.
The school has since gone through a number of name changes, including Top School, Alpha Elementary, and Alpha Junior School. Today, it is known as the Alpha Primary School, and after 120 years of existence, it has garnered a reputation of excellence and top class results.
The Alpha Primary School has remained one of Jamaica’s premier institutions over the years, boasting outstanding results in all national standardised examinations, namely the Grade Three Diagnostic Test, the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Tests, and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).
This institution has played its part in community and national development, producing some of Jamaica’s outstanding leaders. Former Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding; Gospel artiste, Jenieve Hibbert-Bailey, and Broadcasters Henry Stennett, Michael Sharpe and Nadine McLeod are just a few of the trailblazing Jamaicans who once walked the corridors of the school.
Principal of the school, Millicent Graham, tells JIS News that the institution continues to provide a wholesome education experience to the students of Kingston, equipping them with the skills necessary to effectively manage life’s challenges.
Mrs. Graham admits that although the pupil-to-teacher ratio remains high, with a total of 31 teachers to more than 1,000 students, the staff continues to work hard and “the students continue to excel."
She notes that the school not only has a solid education programme, but also boasts a strong extra-curricular programme, which seeks to instill values of respect and responsibility in Jamaica’s future leaders.
“These (programmes) play an integral part in our school’s education programme, as we believe that this is critical to the students’ overall development,” she tells JIS News.
After classes, students are encouraged to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, such as the Builders’ Club, the Chess Club, the Red Cross, and Brownies.
“We believe that if the students are involved in these groups they will become more responsible and I think it also provides them with an opportunity to develop character, critical thinking skills and social skills,” Mrs. Graham says.
As the institution celebrates its 120th anniversary, Miss Graham says the school family will not only seek to pay homage to its pioneers, but will also celebrate and recognise the remarkable contributions it has made to its community and country.
The school has planned a number of activities to commemorate the achievement, including an Open Day/Math Exposition at the school’s campus on Friday, May 18; an Evening of Excellence at the Little Theatre on May 29, and a Banquet at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on June 30. The school will also host a special essay and poster competition.
Mrs. Graham informs that the Mathematics Exposition will be a very important part of the celebrations, noting that it will “showcase our children at work in the area of Math."
She notes that the school has been making a very special effort to assist students in developing their skills in the subject area, and as such, the students and teachers will be showcasing their achievements through the expo.
“(They) have selected topics that they’ll be working on and they’ll be putting up displays on those particular topics and the students will be explaining the concepts to the visitors who will come,” she says. Mrs. Graham also informs that each grade will be working on a different topic.
For the Evening of the Excellence, the Alpha Primary students will be showcasing their talents in the arts, including dance, speech and music.
She also notes that the institution has always done well over the years in the area of culture, copping a number of prizes and medals in national competitions, including those of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). The students will get a chance to showcase a number of their award-winning pieces at the event.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter