Jamaica Community Empowerment

Grants Pen GSAT Students Honoured by USAID-COMET, GoGSAT & the Community

August 25, 2008

Kingston, Jamaica – August 22, 2008: The community of Grants Pen in St. Andrew today rolled out the ‘red carpet’ and awarded its Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) students who performed outstandingly in this year’s exams and who will begin attending high school within a week. The ceremony was jointly hosted by the Grants Pen Community Policing Consultative Committee and the USAID – Community Empowerment and Transformation Project (COMET).

At today’s ceremony at the Peace Park in Grants Pen, thirty-five high achievers from the community were honoured with accolades from USAID; the e-learning company, GoGSAT; the Community Policing Consultative Committee and the community-based organization, Barbican-Grants Pen Upliftment Movement. The students who were honoured had successfully were provided with access to an online coaching service run by GoGSAT and sponsored by the USAID-COMET project between January and March 2008, which prepared them for GSAT.

Sean Osner, Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainable Development, USAID, has lauded the students who participated in GoGSAT program, for their 80% success rate in the GSAT exams. “Today we want to recognize and make public note of the accomplishments of these young people. The results have been astounding,” said Mr. Osner in addressing today’s function for the high achievers.

He noted that owing to the success of the GoGSAT project in the inner city communities of Grants Pen, Central Village and Flanker, USAID is considering expanding the programme to all 38 communities where Community Based Policing (CBP) is being rolled out by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The new program will also feature a lesson module on community safety for the students.

Mr. Osner explained that USAID’s sponsorship of the GoGSAT program for these students is in keeping with the mandate of the USAID-COMET to support efforts that make communities safer and more empowered. He also reiterated USAID’s commitment to strengthening the community safety and security capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Social Development Commission and community-based organizations. Mr. Osner pointed out that USAID sees the GoGSAT program as a deterrent to crime and violence, since it encourages youth to stay away from delinquent behaviour.

“Gangs and truancy are major and urgent issues affecting youth. Gang members are recruited from the pool of youth (males) who drop out after failing GSAT and failing to get placements in high school,” remarked the USAID’s Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainable Development. “By facilitating access to the Go-GSAT preparation method, the likelihood of improved performance in GSAT increases and thus reduces the chance of school drop out which usually leads to risky behaviour or minimal employability.”

Expressing elation at the excellent performances of the Grants Pen GSAT students, Mayor of Kingston Councillor Desmond McKenzie who was keynote speaker at the event, expressed the hope that the outstanding performance of youth in the community would be sustainable. He urged the students to strive for success in all areas of their lives and to mix that success with a spirit of gratitude and caring. “Remember where you are coming from – don’t change your address or lifestyle to suit anyone. Remember your parents,” urged Mayor McKenzie.

Voicing concern that students in the All Age Schools were under performing, Mayor McKenzie called on private and public sector organizations to give them whatever support they required, with the aim of increasing their performance at the GSAT level. Making reference to the country’s historic medal haul in Beijing, the Mayor challenged the nation to build on the successes of the athletes. He appealed to companies which are now congratulating and providing support for the athletes, “to transform this spirit of giving into supporting local (development) programmes”. He expressed the hope that Jamaicans would unite around common goals to transform the island into one of “first world status in terms of our educational and economic capabilities.”

The Valedictorian at today’s Salute to High Achievers in Grants Pen, 12 year old Kela Williams, expressed the commitment on behalf of herself and her colleagues, to continue to excel in high school. She also had a word of encouragement for delinquent youth, “You pon di corner, uplift yourself and love yourself.”

All students who participated successfully in the GoGSAT programme and in the GSAT exams were given certificates and awards from USAID-COMET and GoGSAT. The top 15 high achievers received trophies. There were also special awards for the Top GSAT boy from Grants Pen Julio Jacas, the top GSAT girl Kela Williams and the most improved student Kemaly Pruman. Cable and Wireless gave awards to each participant in the programme. The second phase of the online practice tests run by the USAID – COMET Project and GoGSAT began in April in Grants Pen, Flanker and Central Village and it is preparing students for the GSAT exams in March 2009. Forty-five students from each of the communities are involved in the programme.

The USAID-COMET Project was launched in Grants Pen in March 2006, and was extended to Flanker and Central Village/White Marl during 2007. The revised mandate of USAID-COMET is to support the rollout by the JCF of community-based policing. The Project spearheads sustainable community transformation in select inner-city areas, through economic support and social intervention. USAID’s development programme for Jamaica is helping to create a more competitive business environment, enhance the education and health of the population, preserve biodiversity and foster environmentally sustainable rural development and create safer communities.

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