- A near tragedy and divine inspiration led Genesis Academy founder Pauline Beaumont to realise her calling for children with disabilities and to eventually being recognised for her outstanding service to this community of persons.
- Less than one month after opening, the student population had outgrown her living room, moving from five to 11. This resulted in Genesis Academy moving to several locations before finally settling at South Camp Road.
- Under Mrs. Beaumont’s guidance, the institution has implemented several programmes, including a life skills curriculum for adults 18 to 25, a HEART-certified vocational skills training programme with a work experience preparation and internship component, speech, music and art therapy.
A near tragedy and divine inspiration led Genesis Academy founder Pauline Beaumont to realise her calling for children with disabilities and to eventually being recognised for her outstanding service to this community of persons.
On Thursday, June 23, Mrs. Beaumont will be awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education.
Raised by her grandmother in Kingston, Auntie Pauline, as she is affectionately called by her students and teachers, always had dreams of becoming an educator.
However, her early career would take her down the path of administration, only to veer off course into teaching.
Mrs. Beaumont began teacher training at 30 years old in England, where she had migrated as a teenager to live with her mother.
After four years of diligent training she was certified to fulfil her dream. Early in her new career, Mrs. Beaumont experienced what she describes as a “meteoric rise”, becoming the first black principal in the London Borough of Merton within her first three years.
However, she says that there was always a special place in her heart for students who displayed behavioural problems. This led her to pursue further studies in special education, a decision that has greatly impacted her career.
“While teaching, I was always drawn to students who were on the outside misbehaving and that led me to do a course in special education and that course, when I went for a job as principal, gave me the edge over other candidates, because it was a school with a special education unit and no one else had that additional qualification,” Mrs. Beaumont tells JIS News.
She would go on to become principal for a second institution, but in 1993 tragedy struck that would forever change her life. While on a visit to Jamaica she met in an accident that left her spine damaged. Devastated, she returned to England for corrective surgery and to recuperate. It was during that period that an unlikely opportunity presented itself.
“During that period, a friend came to visit me with a little girl, Cassie, with special needs and she told me that the child had been through eight homes and she was about to give up on her. I don’t know what happened, but something touched my heart and I said to my husband I would like to foster her. We applied to foster and when we got the approval I requested Cassie,” she recounts.
Mrs. Beaumont says her decision to foster the child and another event were part of her preparation for Genesis Academy.
“My son, a bright young man with his degree, developed schizophrenia at age 25, so again the Lord was using this situation, so I could have an understanding. So when I started Genesis I knew that He led me down this road,” she says.
With slow recovery and the advice of her husband, Mrs. Beaumont retired from teaching and returned to Jamaica where it was thought the warm climate would help to improve her condition. With much reluctance, she returned to Jamaica in 1994.
“I brought Cassie with me and I had problems finding a school for her and I ended up going to Liberty Academy. I went in to help and remained there for three years. By then, Cassie who has mild autism and personality disorder was ready to transition to high school and I could not find a school that could cope with her and I decided to homeschool her,” she shares.
With her decision to homeschool Cassie, she began to meet other parents of children with special needs at the high-school level, but who could not find a school to place them.
She knew that she had been called to cater to the educational needs of persons with disabilities, but she did not know where or how to start until her husband encouraged her to start the school in their home.
“My husband said to me… if you really want to start this school, why don’t you start it at home. I got up and called the parents that were interested and told them that I am going to start the school in my living room and I bought desks and chairs and started school on Monday, September 15, 2003 and we never looked back,” she recounts.
Less than one month after opening, the student population had outgrown her living room, moving from five to 11. This resulted in Genesis Academy moving to several locations before finally settling at South Camp Road.
Mrs. Beaumont says that the institution has had to overcome several challenges, including almost closing its doors because of a lack of finance.
“Running a special needs school is not cheap. There were many times when I did not earn anything from running Genesis Academy… because I had to ensure that the teachers were paid. It came to a point where the school had no money and my husband, being an accountant, said we have to close. I told him we cannot close because God is in this,” she tells JIS News, adding that each time the school ran low on funds it was given a donation.
Along with the challenges, there have also been successes, as a number of the students have gone on to live fulfilled lives with support from their families and friends.
Pastor and Past Chairman of Genesis Academy, Wesley Boynes, says Mrs. Beaumont possesses exceptional qualities that have allowed her to succeed at all levels in her life.
“Pauline brings to the table a genuine care and concern for people, especially persons with special needs. She was never involved in special needs education just to make a living and, in fact, in many instances, Pauline deprived herself of many opportunities to meet her own interests, so that she could make herself available to serve others. She is a real Jamaican heroine,” he says.
Pastor Boynes adds that her contribution to nation building in the form of a special needs institution is a model that should be replicated across Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
Parent and current Chairman of Genesis Academy, Caryl Fenton, echoes the sentiments of Pastor Boynes.
“Mrs. Beaumont and I met over 13 years ago when she started the school in her home. She filled a gap that was left unfilled. She is inspirational and has a wealth of knowledge,” she says.
Under Mrs. Beaumont’s guidance, the institution has implemented several programmes, including a life skills curriculum for adults 18 to 25, a HEART-certified vocational skills training programme with a work experience preparation and internship component, speech, music and art therapy.
She has also used her expertise in project management to raise funds in excess of $60 million for the institution.
Mrs. Beaumont’s contribution has extended to her church, Hope United Church, where she has served as an Elder since 2014. She has also served as an education officer with the Ministry of Education, school inspector with the National Education Inspectorate, principal of Liberty Academy at the Priory and President of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association.
She has retired as principal of Genesis Academy, but still pays regular visits to ensure that the institution’s standards are maintained.
Mrs. Beaumont plans to write a book that will detail her journey from Jamaica to England and back, and the development of a premier institution and how her faith in God has guided her each step of the way.