Minister of Education, Hon Andrew Holness, has appealed to top-flight Jamaican athletes to use their celebrity status to leverage support for the education system.
“I think that is the greatest investment that you could make in the development of your own country, and when you do that you will be ensuring that the country from which you came will be the country of choice, to live, work and raise our families,” he stated.
Mr. Holness was speaking Monday (November 9) at the launch of the third annual Fun 4 Kidz Sanya Richards Fast Track programme, at the Kingston High School, downtown Kingston. The after-school programme combines literacy and extra-curricular activities, and is mainly sponsored by Jamaican-born U.S. 400 metres champion, Sanya Richards.
The programme started out targeting Kingston High, but this year Bridgeport, Tarrant, Tivoli, Donald Quarrie and Penwood high schools have been brought in.
Minister of Education, Hon Andrew Holness (second left); Jamaican-born U.S. 400 metres champion, Sanya Richards (left); Special Assistant to the Minister of Education, Robert Miller (second right); and author of the book Jamaican Athletics: A Model for 2012 and Beyond, Patrick Robinson, discuss the book during the launch of the third Fun 4 Kidz Sanya Richards Fast Track programme, at Kingston High School on Monday (November 9). The book is to be used to stimulate reading in the programme.
The Education Ministry is a partner in the programme, and Mr. Holness said the concept of marrying literacy and sports was laudable, and that he was extremely pleased with the outcome so far.
“I reviewed the report given to me on the project and I gather that you have improved at least 55 per cent of students that have participated in the programme to one grade level or more, from where they were in terms of reading,” he explained.
Principal of Kingston High, Charles Reid, said that two years ago some of the students were unable to participate at Boys’ and Girls’ Champs, because of poor academic records. However, after six months under the programme, 12 of them were able to enter events at the last championships.
Three hundred and seventy five students are to benefit from this year’s programme, up from 55 when it started.
Jamaican-born U.S. 400 metres champion, Sanya Richards (second left), shaking hands with one of the participants in the Fun 4 Kidz Sanya Richards Fast Track programme and Kingston High School student, Carl Richards, during the launch of the third installment of the progamme at the school, Monday (November 9). Also seated at the table are (left to right): United States sprint champion, Lauryn Williams (left); Minister of Education, Hon Andrew Holness (second right); and Special Assistant to the Minister of Education, Robert Miller.
Miss Richards said that she was very proud to be associated with the initiative, and encouraged the students to dream big.
“I remember running as a little kid and having a big vision, and I want to tell you that anything is possible. As long as you have the opportunities and take advantage of them, listen to your teachers, take direction, finish up school and just dream big,” she encouraged.
Sanya Richards was born in Jamaica in 1985, but moved to Florida with her parents in 1997. She became a U.S. citizen in 2002 and has been representing that country internationally since. She has won two Olympic Gold medals- 2004 and 2008 – in the Women’s 4×400 relays. She won the gold medal in the 400 metres at this year’s IAAF World Athletic Championships in Berlin.
Jamaican-born U.S. 400 metres champion, Sanya Richards (centre), photographed with students of Kingston High School, at the launch of the third Fun 4 Kidz Sanya Richards Fast Track programme, at the school on Monday (November 9).
Also supporting the launch were United States’ Olympic 100 metres silver medallist (2004) and 4-time World Championship medallist (4×400 metres relay), Lauryn Williams, and her parents; as well as authors Patrick Robinson and Kellie Magnus, whose books on sports will be used in the programme.