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Head Girl at Merl Grove High School, in St. Andrew, Annestta Samuels, has implored Jamaican Canadians to invest in the education of young people.
“It is my view that some teenagers are de-motivated by the lack of support, financial or otherwise, that they receive. The potential of numerous students are stifled by the fact that there is not enough money for them to pursue their education or pursue their dreams,” she told patrons attending a fund-raising event organiSed by the Canadian Chapter of the Past Students Association (PSA) in Toronto, Canada, on June 5.
Because of lack of support, said Ms. Samuels, many teenagers turn to violence, drugs and other deviant behaviours.

J. Barbara Martin Scholarship recipient, Racquel Pinnock (right, sitting), with a past student who attended Merl Grove in the 1940s, Ms. Barbara Stephens (left, sitting) and members of the Board of the Canadian Chapter of the Past Students Association (from left), Vice-President, Althea McKenzie; President, Suzette Lawrence-Hermitt; Assistant Public Relations Officer, Everald Hermitt and Public Relations Officer, Miriam Esaau-Chung.

The former recipient of the J. Barbara Martin Scholarship, which is sponsored by the Canadian PSA, noted that the generosity of the group and their supporters has transformed the lives of the recipients.
“You have produced a culture of excellence and have profoundly impacted our lives. Consider what would happen if you stopped caring, if you stopped paying for our books, buying our school uniform or sending our lunch money,” Ms. Samuels said.
Recipients of the J. Barbara Martin Scholarship are students who are academically gifted, but lack the financial resources to fund their schooling. Once the recipient is chosen in second form, she remains with the programme until graduation in fifth form. During that time funds are sent to Jamaica to pay for school or auxiliary fees, books, uniforms, lunch, and transportation.
The Head Girl, who will be attending the University of the West Indies (UWI) in September appealed to the audience to continue their support of the past students association.
“I am appealing to you to pledge towards contributing to someone’s education. You don’t have to be rich, but your support counts. I want you to see yourselves as individuals who have within you the power to change lives. Your small contribution is what keeps this organisation going. You were made to matter to someone,” she said.
President of the PSA, Suzette Lawrence-Hermitt, announced that the group will now be extending assistance to students who go on to sixth form.
“With the level of success that our recipients have attained, we believe it’s only prudent that we take them through to the finish line of high school. A student in need in second to fifth form, remains a student in need in sixth form. It just means we have to redouble our efforts with our sponsors and supporters,” said Mrs. Lawrence-Hermitt.
The president also informed that earlier this year the group introduced a big-sister mentorship programme, “which allows a past student to be accountable for one child throughout her tenure as a J. Barbara Martin Scholarship student.”
Consul at the Jamaican Consulate General, Nigel Smith, thanked the association on behalf of the government and people of Jamaica, for the “wonderful work” the group is doing to assist the young people of Jamaica.
Scholarship recipient, fifth form student Racquel Pinnock, who received a plaque from the association, thanked the group, particularly Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS), which has sponsored her for the last four years.
Manager of VMBS, Denise Sinclair, told the students that the sky is the limit and they should never stop dreaming. “The day you stop dreaming is the day your dream will end,” she said.