On Friday, January 12, the Awards Committee of ACC coordinated a wonderfully uplifting ceremony to recognize and award students for outstanding academic work and for good conduct. It was an honor to present these awards along with Mrs. Dotsie Arnold from the Ministry of Education; Ms. Susan Ferguson from Grace Kennedy; Mr. Joseph Stamp from The Reporter; Ms. Mapye Smith, parent, alumna and member of the ACC Board of Governors; Mrs. Carol Babb, General Manager of Anglican Schools; Reverend Wayne Kirton; and Mr. Ismael Requeña, Principal ACC.
It was indeed refreshing to see the smiling faces of those who received awards and to hear the resounding applause from their peers. Too often the achievements of young people are overshadowed by the negativity, that web-like entanglement that suffocates some of their less fortunate contemporaries in lifestyles of violence and crime.
In an interview with Ms. Solangel Yam, mistress of ceremony and public relations officer who holds an M.Ed in Leadership, she reflected on the education process at ACC. Ms. Yam noted that the Anglican Cathedral College uses a “stakeholder approach” in attaining support and participation of all stakeholders involved in the educating of students. She emphasized that parents, faculty, staff, church, businesses, media, alumni, and the community are all essential to the development and success of students, and are looked to as role models and for achieving a quality education at ACC through spiritual and fiscal support.
Ms. Yam stated, “ACC has come a long way, especially working with students from the Southside. We work to hold on to them. We do not use poverty as an excuse for failure. Our approach is to work with parents as well. We work closely with them, particularly the moment a problem shows up.”
Top Students, Award Recipients & Honor Roll
Forty-eight students in all received awards. Of these, the top three classes with students on Honor Roll were 1 Hilda in first place with 10 students, 2 Hilda that ranked second with 7 students, and 2 Sylvester with 5 students.
First Form top student hailing from 1 Hilda was Reginald Jackson; Second Former, Alana Godoy from 2 Michael; Third Former, Lucia Cho from 3 Sylvester; and Fourth Former Bryann Griffith from 4 Michael.
Community Recognition went to The Reporter, received by Mr. Joseph Stamp; and to Mr. Abdulah Nuñez, Zone Beat Liaison Officer, who participates in the development of students through talks on safety and who is always willing to assist the school.
In speaking with Yam, I learned that the business community this time round that contributed by way of gifts to students included Bravo Motors (a company that always sends packages to students), Brothers Habet, Tony’s Store, Sagicor, and Grace Kennedy.
Yam remarked that many of the contributors to the development of ACC’s students are people who are willing to give a hand. She said, “Why complain, and complain, instead of doing something about a situation? It is no longer just about teachers. Everyone has to participate and help. Our students look forward to the Awards Ceremony that started about two years ago and that is carried out every quarter.”
Principal Requeña stated that as part of the awards last year, students who had qualified for honors went on a day’s outing to the Free Zone with the assistance of the business community.
“Today’s award ceremony jumped from 28 students last year to 48 this year. Twenty more!” “At ACC we are committed to quality and to assisting students in getting there.”
Academics, Extra-Curricular Activities & Discipline
Requeña stated that he has the full support of his faculty in ensuring that students are exposed to a holistic approach to education. “We have over 20 clubs that include dominoes, chess, photography, desktop publishing, and even a City Tour Club (students take tours to different parts of the Belize City to learn more about it).” He himself is in charge of the Principal’s Club and offers lessons in public speaking and etiquette. “Sometimes we say that students are rowdy and without manners. If that is the case, then we must teach them differently,” he said.
Requeña continued, “The push for academics comes with recognition and awarding of students for good conduct. Our discipline system is two-fold. Our discipline card allows for the recording of ‘demerits’ and ‘merits.’ A student who gets 25 demerits goes on suspension and is liable for expulsion with 50. But it is not as cut and dried as it sounds numerically. There are support systems that ensure that the student has every opportunity to reform his or her ways. For example, the school uses a standard form that notifies parents of action taken that results in sending home students who might be using ‘sagging’ uniform trousers or other inappropriate forms of uniform code. The form allows for both parents to become aware of the problem and for students to make quick adjustments once the ‘problem is corrected’ and to come back to school.”
I learned that students can clock up bonus points on the merit system toward earning recognition for good conduct at an award ceremony. It is a balanced system that curbs bad conduct and rewards good behavior.
Strategic Planning & Goal Setting
Solangel Yam reflected on the award outcomes stating, “In our last retreat we concentrated on commitment and quality in teacher education. Part of what we are seeing at the awards ceremony comes from our strategic plan.”
Mr. Requeña expressed that part of the school’s success can be attributed to the fact that many of his faculty are professional teachers. Of the thirty-three teachers, eight hold Master’s degrees, thirteen Bachelors, and twelve, Associates. Principal Requeña noted that of those holding an Associate degree, 75% are enrolled in the University of Belize programs ensuring professional upgrading. Certainly, the success of faculty is reflected in the outcomes of students’ conduct and performance rewarded at the Award Ceremony held Friday last as the school prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year—an amalgamation of St. Hilda’s College for girls and St. Michael’s College for boys.