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Immaculate precautions

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 4:00 AM
A go-kart is navigated around the track put together for the Immaculate Conception High School December 2014 fair.
Camilla Rennie (left), president of the Immaculate Conception High School JAA Junior Club, along with fellow club members Jheanelle Duhaney (second left), Sherika Hill (third left), Mishka Vassel (third right), Shanelle Sterling (second right) and Jheanine Panton.
A young driver takes a turn at the steering of a go-kart during the December 2014 staging of Immaculate High School’s fair, courtesy of the school’s JAA Junior Club.
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Girls dressed in white uniforms are not immediately associated with motorsport and the auto industry. However, students at the all-girls Immaculate Conception High School on Constant Spring Road, St Andrew, have embraced the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Junior Club since its introduction in September 2013. The growing club currently has more than 30 members who have implemented a series of high-impact initiatives.

Club president Camilla Rennie, an upper sixth-form student, said, "The response to the club has been overwhelming, especially among the students in the lower grades who are eager to learn and are open to the idea of what the club is about." She also indicated that "the older girls are a bit hesitant; however, once they get a chance to experience the club and participate in the activities, they gradually become enthused".

The JAA Junior Club at Immaculate is one of approximately 60 operating in high schools across the country since 2013. The objective is to assist in building awareness among students about the importance of road-safety advocacy in their schools and the wider community, while providing them with new insight into motorsport and the automotive industry.

JAA Junior Clubs are an initiative of the JAA, in collaboration with the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation, JN General Insurance Company, the Ministry of Education, the FIA Foundation and the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme.

Carese Murphy, faculty adviser to the club at Immaculate, said, "There has been overwhelming interest from students who want to learn how to drive, while others indicated that they would like to know more about the motorsport racing industry and traffic laws." Murphy added that, "There are also those who are interested in knowing more about being safe road users."

Go-karts at school

During the December 2014 staging of the school's annual fair, the club provided go-kart rides, which was very popular with the students. Rennie said that the go-karts were used to "increase the visibility of the club in a fun and interesting way which would engage students, especially the younger ones who would otherwise have little interest in road safety.

"Additionally, the go-karts were a source of fundraising for future projects."

Murphy noted that since the fair, interest in Immaculate's JAA Junior Club has increased, and members sought to capitalise on this by also participating in an open day held at the school in February this year. "The open day also provided a platform to create greater awareness about the club among students and their parents about its purpose and objectives," Rennie emphasised.

During Immaculate's open day, students were able to sign up for driving lessons at the JAA Driving Academy and were also able to view safety features of the new Honda CRV, which was on display, courtesy of a partnership with ATL Automotives Limited.

The club's executive is planning to shift its road-safety advocacy efforts into high gear with the hosting of a JAA Week of Activities, which will expose Immaculate's students to several road-safety activities.

"The members of the JAA Club will participate in hands-on road safety demonstrations and will actually be directing traffic around the school one morning. One of our upcoming events will be a school campaign under pillar number four of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety - Road User Behaviour," Rennie said.

The club will also be seeking to adopt the Shortwood Practising School as an outreach project, further boosting its community presence.