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Miss St Catherine Festival Queen dedicates time to at-risk youth

Published:Thursday | January 15, 2015 | 12:57 PMRuddy Mathison
PHOTO BY RUDDY MATHISON Danene Cruickshank with one of the students at Children's First.

SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
THE CHILDREN First Achievement Centre (CFAC), situated in Spanish Town and which caters to at-risk youth, ages 10-16, from the parish, now has the assistance of the Miss St Catherine Festival Queen with literacy development.

This non-governmental institution funded by gifts and grants from the private sector and other community entities, enrols students who drop out of school because of literacy challenges relating to reading and writing skills.

Miss St Catherine Festival Queen Danene Cruickshank, who is currently reading for a degree in Special Education, on Wednesday, started a programme to volunteer her services on Fridays to assist these students.

"This is not a regular school system that is funded by the Ministry of Education, so you can imagine that any assistance will be of importance to the institution," she told Rural Xpress.

According to Cruickshank, her passion is working with children, a situation that prompted her to volunteer her time indefinitely to assist the students in advancing their reading and writing skills as the institution begins a programme to prepare them for the Grade Nine Achievement Test.




"My interest in the Children First Achievement Centre is not confined to the fact that as the parish festival queen, I am mandated to do a parish project. I became interested in 2013 when I worked there as a volunteer guidance counsellor," Cruickshank disclosed.

She pointed out that she observed then that the students had challenges and immediately thought about giving back to the community, so the idea of a literacy programme came to mind. She said she sought assistance from her lecturers at Mico University College in developing this programme.

Stacy Ann Campbell, an instructor in literacy education at the institution praised Cruikshank, saying that she created the programme at the time when it was needed.

"She will be a tremendous asset to the advancement of our objectives here at this centre," the literary instructor suggested.

Life skills instructor Francine McDonald Vassell said the addition of the festival queen to administer the literacy programme will help in the preparation of students in the transition from primary to high school.

Liquisha Francis Valentine, a parent who has a 10-year-old boy attending the institution, welcomed the move to have a literacy instructor on staff.

"This can only mean well for my son and others who are slow learners," she stated, revealing that her son has been attending the CFAC since September and now he might be able to attend high school.

Carlyn Thompson, lecturer at Mico University College, who is assisting Cruickshank with the syllabus, feels that she will be very effective in carrying out her tasks.