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Nicole Nugent shows love and care to the community's challenged

Published:Thursday | July 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey
Nicole Nugent and her daughter, Nickoya McLarty.
Students and their parents during the Special Olympics held in Kingston.
Students dressed and ready for their National Youth Service Interview, where many were successful.
Students showing off the medals won at the Special Olympics.

Trelawny, Jamaica:

With a heart of gold, Nicole Nugent, having witnessed the stifling conditions of the children in the community who were physically or mentally challenged, opened her arms, stretched her resources and has added each child to her family - providing them with an education and life-long skills to aid in their overall development.

Nugent who operates between Trelawny and Mandeville, Manchester, got the inspiration to begin a school for those physically and otherwise challenged after having her own daughter diagnosed with Downs Syndrome.

"The school is called Hope and Divine Centre, and it has been in existence for about one year and five months. My daughter, who has Downs Syndrome, was my main motivation, and then looking at children with disabilities in the community who sat at home, locked away, doing nothing, I decided to do something for them."

Nugent told Family & Religion that the school functions like a regular school system but has opened its doors to those even as old as 50.

"On April 13, 2015, we opened the doors of the school free of charge. The building is actually a three-bedroom house that we have rented. One room is for the office, the other two are for classrooms and the dining and living room is the auditorium. There's a bathroom, but our kitchen is on the outside."

She added: "School begins at 9:30 and ends at 2:30 from Mondays to Fridays, and we do every subject like a regular primary school. On Fridays we focus on skills set: we have two trained teachers who are paid and they facilitate the 19 students we have enrolled."

Nugent explained that a lot of the students have never been into a formal education system because the schools they were referred to could not fit into the budget of the parents, as several are from poor backgrounds and rely on farming to earn a small income.

"Our students range from age eight to age 52 and all of them have a disability, but they all have potential and that was evidenced by the Olympic Games we recently took part in Kingston. The Special Olympics was introduced to us by Cislyn Shirley, who is the parish coordinator."




She continued: "It was only two weeks prior to the event that we heard about it and the fact that they did so well warms my heart: all we had was the verandah at the school to practise and Codian Melbourne and Pauline Hylton to help with training. "

The team of 21 copped 17 medals: 9 gold, 4 silver 4 bronze and 12 fourth place ribbons, granting them the third placement of all the 14 parishes that entered.

"Saturday, I had an appreciation ceremony for them and I must mention Norman Duvall who has been very instrumental in the operation of the school and the Olympics. It can be very difficult to manage my time as I have a funeral services business, my own family, an empowerment initiative show called 'Speak Out' and I am involved in politics. But these kids mean the world to me."

"Parents in the community who don't want their kids, I tell them: send them to me. I have never asked for a donation and through God's grace we are still in existence."

Nugent expressed that she wants the best for her children and hopes that in the future she will be able to get them some toys, a proper school building and other resources.

"I would love to get a building for them, so if I die the school remains for them. I would greatly appreciate the assistance in that regard."

Student and now adopted daughter of Nugent, Andrene Lewis, says the school has done a lot for her in wanting to embrace her full potential

"It is a good school: I am getting the chance to further my education. I want to be a chef because I like to cook and bake. I believe I can do it."

To contact Nicole Nugent, call (876) 581-5821 or email