New Cedar Grove Academy Aiming For Excellence

Photo: JIS Photographer Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, unveils a plaque on February 20 dedication ceremony at the Cedar Grove Academy in Portmore, St. Catherine. Applauding (from left) are: Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites; Principal of the school, Otis Brown; Chairman, Board of Governors, Rev. Dr. Wellesley Blair; and Advisor to the Prime Minister, Delano Franklyn.

Story Highlights

  • The institution, which opened its doors to its first batch of students just six months ago, is already making its mark on the local education scene.
  • The academy was constructed as a result of a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
  • All the students fully embrace the spirit of excellence and are singing the praises of the institution and the difference it has made in their lives.

‘The spirit of excellence is upon all of us.’ This is the value statement under which staff and students of the Cedar Grove Academy in Portmore, St. Catherine, operate.

The institution, which opened its doors to its first batch of students just six months ago, is already making its mark on the local education scene, as it holds its own against long established institutions in competitions, such as the Jamaican Mathematics Olympiad, organized by the University of the West Indies, Mona.

A co-educational institution, the academy was constructed as a result of a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, at a cost of $660 million, through funding by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The school opened its doors in September 2013 to 86 Grade 7 students, which later increased to 96. It also offers classes to 35 sixth formers in two faculties, the Humanities and Sciences, and operates under a STEM culture, where special emphasis is placed on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

All the students fully embrace the spirit of excellence and are singing the praises of the institution and the difference it has made in their lives.

Sixth form student, Quiskeyanne Thompson, is specializing in the Humanities. A former student of the Queens School, she has been introduced to a whole new way of doing things and she is embracing the opportunity to learn and do well.

“I actually like it a lot.  Based on the time I have been here, it has been a drastic change from what I am used to. The mid-day meditations, the discipline, the order, the community, everything is just comforting, caring and loving,” Quiskeyanne tells JIS News.

She notes that even though there have been a few glitches here and there, due to the fact that the school is new, the experience will make the students stronger. “I think it will be better for us. It will make us more rounded to know that not everything is going to come easy to us and we have to prepare ourselves to be strong enough for the challenges in life,” she adds.

Another sixth form student, Shaquille Allen, is grateful for the lessons in social etiquette that the institution is imparting, in addition to his specialist area of science.

“I must say this school has changed my life a lot. They instill moral values in me. We are using knife and fork where in other schools you don’t get that. …and the teaching is very remarkable. All the teachers here, I learn very, very easily from them,” he says.

Javel Lyn is in grade 7 and she likes the feeling of belonging that she gets at the school.  “I am liking it because we are like a family here. We help each other through school work, and there is respect for all,” Javel says.

Another student, Orandio Anderson, is recommending the institution to everyone. “It is a good school for the young ones coming in.  We have elevators for mostly disabled children. It is a good institution…they have taught us a lot to become good global citizens,” he tells JIS News.

Christopher Bryan is the Deputy Head Boy and he believes that the strict environment in which the students operate teaches them how to follow rules and this augurs well for the future.

“The learning environment here is very good and we are like a family here, really bonding together. The school is new and it is coming up. It is not fully complete, but by next year we will see it at its finest,” he says.

Principal, Otis Brown, leads the institution, which will accommodate 1,200 students and 80 members of staff when it is fully operational.

Since the start, the school has placed strong emphasis on positive culture formation, character education, values and attitudes, academic excellence, accountability, stakeholder involvement and partnership.

“We say here forward ever and backward never,” Mr. Brown declares.

Addressing the recent dedication ceremony for the school, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, said groups like the New Testament Church of God, which partnered with the Government to construct the school, have a lot to offer young people by way of character education.

“I maintain that character education leads to a successful, productive life, which leads to the economic development of a nation,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.

She pointed out that there is a clarion call for the church to re-engage its mission of values training, by reaching the young, not only in Sunday schools, but weekday school.

“Let no one think that when we talk about the church having a more dynamic presence in our schools, we are talking narrowly about producing students with better manners and etiquette, as important as that is.  We are talking about molding students who are prepared to take on the tough challenges of life, including the tasks of economic development and building a productive society,” the Prime Minister said.

“We are also talking about producing students who can raise the productivity levels of this country; students who can compete with those in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Poland,” Mrs. Simpson Miller added.

Persons outside are seeing the discipline and hearing good things about the school. Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, noted at the ceremony that even before the Grade Six Achievement Test this year, parents are already making inquiries about getting their children into the institution.

This, he pointed out, was in sharp contrast to last year when some parents pulled their students when they were awarded a place there, sending them instead to schools as far away as Papine and Old Harbour.

“The existence of this high school makes it possible for parents in and around Portmore to send their children to a nearby institution of excellence, without the inconvenience and costs associated with a long commute,” the Minister said.

The Cedar Grove Academy is the first institution to be built under the National Education Trust (NET), on behalf of the Ministry, and the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP).

Rev. Thwaites has issued an invitation for more private partners to come on board to increase the number of classroom spaces.

The school has 20 classrooms, 10 technical workshops, three science laboratories, two computing laboratories, library, book rental room, tuck shop, store room, kitchen, multi-purpose dining area, and a ramp for the disabled.

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