Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Camperdown celebrates its 85th anniversary

Published:Sunday | March 29, 2015 | 12:00 AMGlenroy Sinclair
In this 1968 file photo, Mrs. Ivy Grant, retired headmistress of Camperdown High School, receives a gift as Mr F.L. Sangster, chairman of the school board, looks on.

As Camperdown High School alumni worldwide join their alma mater this year in a grand celebration of the east Kingston-based institution's 85th anniversary, some of the longest surviving alumni will be recognised by the past students' association, the Camperdown Alumni St Andrew Chapter (CASTAC).

"Most of us who attended Camperdown High graduated without an awareness or full knowledge of the history and legacy of the institution and it's founder, Ivy Grant. So we intend to change that and educate the current generation of the brilliance that came out of our alma mater, showcasing Mrs Grant's contribution to education and nation building," president of CASTAC, William Watson, disclosed to The Sunday Gleaner last Friday.

World-renowned sprint coach, Glen Mills, of Racers Track Club, who was a student at the institution during Grant's tenure, hailed her as a great inspiration.

"The jargon that she used motivated us students and we felt inspired," said Mills, who is among several alumni who have been making significant contributions to the school, dubbed 'The Sprint Factory'.

Another past student, Irene Walter, described Grant as a great teacher.

"Above all, she was a practising Christian, intuitive and caring. She had the ability to recognise those students who needed assistance, whether it was financial support, mentoring or how to apply oneself in order to improve grades. She took the time to address all these," said Walter.

Cynthia Cooke, a former principal of Camperdown High who also attended the 85-year-old institution while Grant was the head, said: "She was a 'proper' lady. She loathed vulgarity and encouraged good speech at all times. As a principal, she loved sports, had a special relationship with the boys, and believed in educating the whole child. The quote I will always remember is, 'Mediocre, not a chance, poor, nooooo! It has to be excellent'!"

The yearlong celebration will commence on Tuesday with a special Founder's Day function at the Jamaica Conference Centre, with a host of motivational speakers.

"The activities include a walk-a-thon from the school (Camperdown Road) to Hope Gardens. There is also an evening of excellence, which is still in the planning stages. This will highlight the performance of our students. Plus, there will also be a 5k event in October," said Valentine Bailey, the school's principal.


nation building


Bailey, who is also a past student, said that like many other traditional high schools in Jamaica, Camperdown has contributed to nation building.

"This is a celebration of Ivy Grant's dream. It is a dream that has survived 85 years and is sprinting away. We are putting in place a vision for the future," Bailey further commented.

Founded in 1930, the east Kingston institution was opened as a preparatory school in the month of February, catering to boys and girls up to age 12. Grant recalled that each succeeding term saw a fourfold increase in the number of students until, in September 1930, a building programme was


The school later became a private secondary high school for girls, and by the mid-'50s was facing the problem of trying to accommodate some 300 students in five classrooms on a quarter-acre of land.

Grant retired in 1968. The crying need for expansion led to the decision that Camperdown had to become a grant-aided institution. The church provided funds to purchase the largest suitable site in the community - two and three-quarter acres of land with a large old house at 6B Camperdown Road.

After refurbishing the building, the school reopened on this site as a co-educational institution with 290 students.

A shift system was established (1978-1986). Camperdown has been accommodating more than 1,400 students on a daily basis.

Writing in 1981, the then president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, E.A. Nugent, said: " ... To the children of the black masses, Camperdown emerged on the horizon of the early '30s like a small oasis in a veritable desert of educational opportunities, especially at the post-primary level. It is rather gratifying to note that in its brief existence, Camperdown has expanded into a giant oasis capable of accommodating over 1,500 students."

In the words of the founder, Ivy Grant: "The vibrant, vigorous Camperdown you see today is the substance of a dream which took its form and shape in the last decades."