Three Men and Their 'Babies'
The Old Boys' Associations of three of the island's leading totally all-male high schools have shattered the myth that they are only rivals, and have, instead, united for the ultimate benefit of their beloved institutions. Their facial expressions and sentiments are akin to parents of babies who need tender, loving care every step of the way.
Collin Greenland, treasurer of Jamaica College (JC) Old Boys' Association; Calabar High School's alum president, David Miller; and Dr Patrick Dallas, who heads Kingston College (KC) Old Boys' Association, first joined forces last year after discussions led to the recognition that they all had a role to play in the future of the present generation of students. Knowing that some amount of rivalry among them would always exist, the three men admitted that they shared more common challenges, such as the boys fighting more, more violent behaviour overall, and a need to improve academic excellence. And so, it was concluded that they should unite under the banner: "Three, the Hard Way."
Miller, who is now in his second year as president of Calabar Old Boys' Association (COBA), decided to become actively involved in his school because he saw the need for supporting, mentoring and assisting the students.
"There were structures in place, but they needed to be strengthened; over the years, there have been many exceptional old boys who have gone on to distinguish themselves and give back to the school. Plus, there is no other school I would go to if I had the opportunity to do it all over again," he told The Gleaner as his reason for becoming involved with COBA.
Greenland said he became actively involved with his association because of the profound impact that JC had had on his life, and which has been etched in his heart forever.
"Giving back came naturally. The population at JC now is similar to many high schools across the island, and I want to ensure that after graduation, the student from Tivoli or Trench Town is at no disadvantage to his counterpart from Cherry Gardens. We have made great strides, but we want to continue the tradition of excellence at JC," Garland offered among his reasons for wanting to be involved.
Dr Dallas is driving the effort to make the KC legacy endure because he believes that as one of Jamaica's leading schools, it is important for the graduates to live up to founding headmaster Bishop Gibson's vision that sons of former slaves can be future leaders of Jamaica.
"We have decided to return to the same space we occupied to contribute so that the young boys can see it as their duty also; we have to improve the quality of what we now have so that things like management and governance of the school can be right for the future."
Dallas proudly asserts that anything he is today is the direct result of his association with KC.
"When I was a student, I saw graduates returning before, during and after school to contribute. We, the young boys, saw them and have followed in their footsteps."
Greenland said JC will continue to strive because being owned by a trust, regardless of who in the administration, there is a group of 'elders' who control the spending.
Another significant avenue of contribution from the old boys to their three schools is through mentoring. At Calabar, one mentor is assigned to each class up to the ninth grade. For grades 10 and 11, there are two mentors who help to inculcate good values, ethics and advice on a wide range of topics that will help the boys grow into well-rounded human beings.
At JC, fifth formers are prioritised for mentoring because they are on the cusp of entering the world as young men, so two mentors are assigned to each form. There is also a fund set up to assist boys with special needs.
"We focus on leadership, integrity, nation building and excellence," Greenland said, with his tongue-in-cheek boast, "If Jamaica had 10 more schools like JC, we would have a better country."
Dallas, Miller and Greenland agree that the academic standard of the three schools must improve in order to increase the number of boys who matriculate to tertiary institutions. In light of the perceived marginalisation of males, the three have decided to do all in their power to improve these statistics.