ST AUGUSTINE, Trinidad — The serious challenges facing the education sector are hardly breaking news. From outmoded curricula to staff shortages, chronic underfunding and growing indiscipline, it seems there’s more than enough to make teachers, parents, policy makers and students alike throw up their arms in despair. But one school in the southern Caribbean is set on keeping hope live.
NorthGate College, based in St Augustine, Trinidad, recently held a graduation ceremony with a notable difference. Students, teachers and parents were all celebrating a “safe environment” where integrity and values-based education are held in higher esteem than scholastic performance. But at the same time, the night was a celebration of the College’s impressive track record of academic and extra-curricular achievement.
“At NorthGate College, we are committed to developing an education model that is relevant to our changing global context. We have to develop citizens who are equipped to scan their world, track the right emphases and build their lives in such a way that they will thrive in their context,” said Yolande La Pierre, director of NorthGate College.
NorthGate is an education initiative of Congress WBN, an international faith-based non-profit founded by Dr Noel Woodroffe in 1999. Over the years, his vision for reformation through education has borne tangible fruit. The school has grown from its original campus in St Augustine to include centres in Jamaica, Kenya and Zambia. And there are plans to expand to other locations worldwide as it seeks to shape young minds for an ever-changing world.
Nigel Edwards, executive director of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation and a director of the Global Communications and Technology Sector of Congress WBN, was the feature speaker at the graduation. He urged the 76 graduands to embrace responsibility for remaining relevant by building upon the foundation that had been laid during their time at NorthGate.
“You make the choice to be who you are going to be,” Edwards said, adding, “and you have to stand firm in the values that surround you.”
Those values were on full display when it came time for two valedictorians to address the packed hall of the Central Bank Auditorium, Port of Spain. Form 6 valedictorian Sebastian Rudden, amplified Edward’s message.
“We were taught and learned to make choices about correct values and standards from early on. If you don’t choose, life will choose for you,” he warned his peers.
Form 5 valedictorian Jonathan Grant reminded his classmates that accurate personal choice is crucial for life, saying, “To journey well and to finish with success takes strength, humility and consistency of correct choice.”
In their lively presentations to the packed room, the pair stood in stark contrast to the stereotype of a lost generation of boys. They held the rapt audience with profound words, delivered with confidence and humility.
The college seems to have tapped into a formula for engaging and transforming young people that should be shared with other schools. Its highest awards were distributed, not to those who excelled in academics, but to students who were standard-bearers of the Student Charter to be “respectful, diligent, sacrificial, self-governed and accountable” throughout the year.
Rudden, the head boy, captured the Chairman’s Award for the male graduate who demonstrated the highest degree of integrity and character. He also won the majority of the Form 6 academic prizes, while Daniel Harper of Form 5 took the lion’s share of the Form 5 academic prizes.
Head girl Kristin Grant earned the NorthGate College Award for the female graduate who consistently exemplifies the vision and mission of the school.
Charise Laveau of Form 6 was honoured with the Cecile Taylor Community Enhancement Award, for students who perform exceptional service and contribute to the preservation of NorthGate’s culture. The award was created in honour of the college’s first director, who was on hand to present the prize.
Fifth formers Kitana John and Fendi Phillips captured awards for exceptional service to the school, while Brandon Wooding copped the Digital Chronicles Award and Revaldo Pierre nabbed the Business Award.
But the real achievement to be celebrated by the NorthGate College community may well be the creation of living patterns for other students to follow.