Special Olympics CEO Joins Official Opening of first high-school special needs facility in St Thomas
Kingston, Jamaica – 12 April 2018: The Digicel Foundation opened the doors to its tenth Centre of Excellence to significantly boost learning and skills development opportunities for persons with Special Needs in St Thomas.
The Centre officially opened on April 7, marking the fulfilment of the commitment made in 2014 by Digicel Foundation Patron Denis O’Brien to build or significantly expand 10 Centres of Excellence for Special Needs.
The J$37.73 million state-of-the-art facility will be the only institution of its kind in the parish, catering for students of high school age. It is administered by the Region 2 office of the Ministry of Education, which identified the great need for such a facility in St. Thomas. Before the Centre opened its doors in September 2017, all students after primary level with intellectual disabilities had to travel to Kingston to attend school. This placed considerable financial strain on their families.
CEO of Special Olympics International Mary Davis was among those who attended the opening in the small seaside town of Lyssons, lending support alongside Member of Parliament Dr Fenton Ferguson ,Digicel Foundation Chairman Jean Lowrie-Chin, Digicel Jamaica CEO, Justin Morin and officials from the Ministry of Education.
Campus Coordinator, Jacqueline Hendricks-Wilmot, reflected, “Before this, there was no other facility in St Thomas to serve students with intellectual disabilities at the high school level.” She added, “We are extremely grateful for this collaborative effort with the Digicel Foundation, because so many of our parents were distressed, as they were not able to access facilities for their children. This facility will open so many doors for our students and we intend to use it to its full potential.”
The building consists of three classrooms, a kitchen, and bathrooms for students and teachers, a sick bay and an administrative block. With 51 students enrolled and accommodation for up to 80, the Centre is equipped to meet thee educational needs of more students in the parish.
The Centre aims to develop vocational training programmes, covering the areas of digital animation, agriculture, welding, home economics, numeracy and literacy. It works not only with students and teachers, but also with families to enhance the children’s overall learning experience.
Digicel Jamaica CEO, Justin Morin, observed that April 2018 marks Digicel’s 17th birthday. He described the Centre as “Digicel’s birthday gift to Jamaica,” as he thanked the company’s customers.
Digicel Foundation Chairman Jean Lowrie-Chin, commented, “We at Digicel Foundation have increasing respect for the courageous students, parents and teachers who are using the facilities.” She cited the example of twin sisters with cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment who blossomed after attending a Centre of Excellence in Kingston and became valedictorians for their class.
Lowrie-Chin noted that the Digicel Foundation wanted to ensure that no child is left behind. She encouraged the students to emulate St. Thomas’ National Hero Paul Bogle: “Be brave in your efforts, and you will all shine in your own special way.”