Westwood High School Alumni celebrated its 130th anniversary with a gala banquet at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston on Saturday night. The old girls and their guests gathered to pay homage to their alma mater and to honour a few special awardees.
There was no mistaking the school's influence on the venue's decoration - tables were draped in blue, yellow and white accentuated with floral centrepieces (which were also in the school's colours) while the chairs were adorned with yellow bows. The ambience was warm and welcoming. Past students from home and abroad took a walk down memory lane during the cocktail hour, reminiscing on their tenure at one of Jamaica's most reputable all-girls high schools.
Glowing ladies epitomised elegance and poise expected from graduates of this institution.
Dervan Malcolm did a superb job as MC, keeping the audience upbeat throughout the night. His impressions of select Jamaican public figures, interspersed with jokes from his repertoire, were well received and added to the banquet's pleasant entertainment value.
Smooth melodies by Bare Essentials Band also had the crowd entertained and grooving. Entertainment was also provided by Fred Robertson, son of a Westwood past student, who wowed the guests with his prowess on the saxophone. They had the guests relaxed and ready for the more ceremonious, but still celebratory, part of the night.
And the guests did have a lot to celebrate. Westward High School has come a long way since it was founded in 1882 by Rev William Menzie Webb. It was the first school for black girls and was originally named Manchester School because of its location in Manchester Pen. Two years later, after infrastructural improvements and a larger student population, the name was changed to Trelawny Girls' School. That name didn't stick for long, however, as it was only a year later that the school's name was again changed to what we know it as today - Westwood High School for Girls.
The school which started out with only six students is now a trailblazer in academia. It has had 13 female principals, the latest of which is a past student herself, Karen Francis. Over the years, the school has risen in ranks to include itself among the more reputable schools in the country. All this while staying true to its traditions, like the wearing of the Jippi Jappa hat as part of the school's uniform.
Westwood prides itself in preparing students to face whatever obstacles life may throw their way, not just by providing top-notch education, but by equipping them with necessary life skills through strong disciplinary practices - "you enter its walls as a girl and leave as a lady," is one mantra the school lives by.