Outstanding student beneficiaries of the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) are not letting poverty get in the way of their academic success.
The hard working and focused students are not bothered by the fact that their peers know that they benefit from the social safety net programme put in place by Government to assist persons, who face financial hardship. In fact, many see PATH as a blessing.
“I know that a lot of persons don’t want anyone to know that they are on the programme. For me, it is a blessing because my parents do not have it and things are hard financially and PATH assisted me greatly throughout my high school years,” says Velrita Brown.
The sixth form student at Mannings High School in Westmoreland, who formerly attended Montego Bay High in St. James, was among 30 students from PATH-aided households, who were honoured by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security last week for outstanding achievement in the Caribbean Secondary Education Council (CSEC) examination and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in 2008 and 2009.
Raju Gunning (L), Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education Health (PATH) Top Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Male Scholar for 2009, accepts his trophy from Director of Social Security at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Collette Roberts Risden. Occasion was the PATH Top Achievers Award 2010, held at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on April 13. A total of 30 PATH student beneficiaries were awarded for outstanding academic performance for 2008 and 2009.
Cash awards of between $8,000 and $20,000, trophies and plaques, were presented to the students.
Velrita, who gained 10 CSEC subjects, was named the Top Girl Achiever for 2009.
First form student at The Hampton School in St. Elizabeth, Whitney Baker, who is the Top GSAT Girl for 2009, tells JIS News that being on the PATH programme encouraged her to do her best irrespective of how people feel about it.
“The PATH programme was very helpful. Some of the students would pretend as though they were not on the programme but it really did not matter to me because I was not looking at what I was getting; I was looking at where I was going,” she confidently states.
Whitney Baker (L), accepts her trophy for being the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education Health (PATH) Top Female Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Scholar for 2009, from Director of Social Security at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Collette Roberts Risden.
Occasion was the PATH Top Achievers Award 2010, held at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on April 13. A total of 30 PATH student beneficiaries were awarded for outstanding academic performance for 2008 and 2009.
Whitney’s Mother, Ethle Samuels says that the decision to sign up to PATH was not an easy one, but she is grateful for the assistance provided by the programme over the years.
Beverly Johnson, mother of Top GSAT Boy for 2009, Raju Gunning, who attends Mannings High, also agrees that her son “could not have done it” without the financial support provided through PATH.
She is urging other parents to disregard the stigma attached to the programme and put their children’s interest first.
Labour Minister, Pearnel Charles in congratulating the students, says that despite their humble circumstances, they have applied themselves and achieved their goals.
He says that records show that children, who benefit from PATH, not only attend school frequently but do well academically, which he credits to strong support from parents and teachers.
Verita agrees, noting that without the dedicated support of her parents, all her efforts would have come to naught. “I have the greatest mother. She has been there for me and assisted me to do my school work,” she says.
Top Boy Achiever for 2009 Ken O’Connor, who gained 11 CSEC subjects, also credits his success to his parents, whom he says “encourages me a lot.”
“During my time in high school they always supported me tremendously and as such, I had to do my best. I could count on them at all times,” he tells JIS News.
The 17-year old former student of Ferncourt High School in St. Ann, who is pursuing A’ Level studies at the Moneague Community College in the parish, says he is grateful for the support from PATH and encourages other students to do their best in school despite the challenges that they face.
The total number of registered student beneficiaries of PATH stands at 201,414 as at February 2010, which is an increase of 2,6414 over the 175,000 students, who received assistance for the same period last year. Over the last two years, the Government has invested in the educational needs of 320,000 students, at a cost of approximately $350 million, resulting in increased school attendance and improvement in the immunisation rates.
Top Achiever prizes went to secondary level students who, in the estimation of the judging panel and based on nominations from the schools, best exemplify scholastic excellence, high levels of school involvement, involvement in sport or extra-curricular activities and high standards of behaviour and deportment.
There were a total of 12 GSAT awardees, comprising students, who had attained 90 plus averages in the examination and are now attending high schools, from which the Top Boy and Top Girl were chosen.
Top Achievers for 2009, were Velrita Brown (Girl), Montego Bay High School and Ken O’Connor (Boy) Ferncourt High, St. Ann. Top Scholars for 2009 were Sashelle Riley (Girl), Montego Bay High and Rammon Green (Boy), Tichfield High, Portland.
For 2008, Top Achievers were Shashane Wallace (Girl), Manchester High School and Burchell Gordon (Boy), Ardenne High, Kingston, while Top Scholars were Monique Grayson (Girl), Montego Bay High and Krishna Barrett (Boy), Cornwall College, St. James.
Top GSAT Girl for 2009 was Whitney Baker of Siloah Primary, St. Elizabeth and Top Boy was Raju Gunnings of Unity Primary, Westmoreland. For GSAT 2008, Top Girl was Sho-Ann Waul of Mannings Hill Primary, St. Andrew, and Top Boy, Rockkeino Salmon of Rousseau Primary in Kingston.
Aabuthnott Gallimore High School, St. Ann, where more than half of the school population is on PATH, was chosen Top School of 2009 and the Mile Gully Health Centre, Manchester, top Health Centre for the year.
For 2008, St. George’s Girls and Infant School in downtown Kingston, where 70 of the 200 students are on PATH, and Great Valley Health Centre, Hanover, were chosen Top School and Top Health Centre, respectively.