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Atlanta-based institution offers opportunities for Jamaican students

Published:Friday | June 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMRichard Bryan
Gary Gardner

For decades, American junior colleges and universities have provided Jamaican high school students with opportunities to study in the United States through sports scholarships, primarily athletics.

An Atlanta-based denominational academy is seeking to provide academic scholarships to students. Their plan is to encourage Jamaican high school students begin the process of American tertiary education via enrolment in their K-12 programme.

"It is a whole different ball game with education now. We can't simply grow our tree and hope people stop by to buy our fruits. It's a whole market out there, and we've got to get out there if we feel we have a good product," said Gary Gardner, development officer at Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy (GAAA).

The school, he said, shares a 15 acre property with a feeder middle school, Berean Christian Junior Academy.

Gardner, who is Jamaican, attended high school and college here before earning a resident American MBA degree and then a doctorate in educational administration and policy.

He said that the pursuit of education is not confined to any one physical space and hence his school's creative way to lure and cater for an international audience.


benefits ambition


"We are looking for Jamaicans who are desirous of imminently transitioning in the American system or who, for various reasons, it would benefit their ambitions to study in America," he told Arts and Education.

The same path and advantages offered to American students were being directly bequeathed to Jamaicans who enrol at GAAA.

"Right now," he said. "High school students in America are afforded the chance to pursue college education while in high school. So, why not extend it as we are credited to cater to an international audience."

Gardner was in the island recently to make contact with schools in Kingston, St James, Manchester, and Clarendon.

He says that the advantages are enormous. "They get a sense of the work ethic involved and just the mindset that they are headed in that direction provides a platform for maturity and seriousness about careers."

Under the arrangement, enrolled students at GAAA can access college classes concurrently and through dual enrolment from the 11th grade, at minimal additional cost.

Students in this programme receive both college credit and high school credit at the same time, once they perform at a grade of B or better and meet other eligibility and admissions requirements of the specific college/university.

He said that he would be back in July to assess the response after other marketing initiatives. He added that his desire to promote the programme here goes beyond his job functions.

"I am fortunate to find myself in a position at a school with an open minded and facilitator approach to education and I just had to think of Jamaica not just from a market perspective, but their own socio-economic process of making life better for their families."

Such an opportunity was not available to him when he was in high school in the 1980s.

"I would have loved something like that when I was in my teens. I loved football, felt I was good at it but just couldn't break into any scholarships. I took some time to settle and it was not until after my first degree."