Former students give back to school

Secondary Modern School alumni help provide reading material for George Town Primary’s library. 

Dressed in their 1960s-era school uniforms, a group of Secondary Modern School alumni returned to school last week to present a $1,000 check to George Town Primary School. 

The money will be used to acquire more reading materials for the library. 

The group of former students, now adults in their sixties, have formed a committee with the aim of giving back to the education system, which they say provided them with strong academic fundamentals. 

“We wanted to show appreciation for the school and what it did for us,” said former student Edwardo Miller. “This is one of many more projects the committee has in store to assist the schools.” 

Principal Marie Martin said it was not often that people take time to express how others have impacted their lives, but in the case of the former students of Secondary Modern School, they have stepped outside that mold, and, in celebrating their many achievements, made the donation to aid the school’s library. 

“Teachers are like gardeners, in that you plant seeds and nurture the soil, but you never really know which flowers will bloom in which way. What it takes is faith that what we do in the classrooms today will have an impact on students’ lives in years to come,” Ms. Martin said. Former student Carol “Petals” Stephens said Secondary Modern School was a school of discipline and she was glad to be a past student. 

“Some of us came out very successful [and] no matter what is our profession, we all got a well-grounded education and we give God thanks for the teachers before and after,” she said. 

A church service was held to honor those teachers for their dedication, Ms. Stephens said. 

Former student Lucy Ebanks said that while some schools today are “so segregated,” the students at Secondary Modern School “were together as friends, even though we came from different districts.” 

Ms. Ebanks also said that she and her classmates maintained their friendships over the years. “We are also very thankful, we had such good role models and they tried their best for us to succeed,” she added. 

Ms. Ebanks explained that the school was perceived poorly by some when it first opened. 

“At the beginning, Secondary Modern School was like an outcast school, meaning [it was] set up for failure,” Ms. Ebanks said. “They had the prestige schools and other schools but they did not think that children at Secondary Modern would have succeeded. Thank God, we turned out really good.” 

She said the former students have lived good lives and their examples are here for the whole world to see because they brought up their children with the knowledge they received. 

Former student Virginia Ebanks Rankine said this donation is just the start of plans the alumni have to give back to the school. She said alumni have been planning to form a committee for this purpose for many years, and they finally got it started early this year. 

“We staged a function at the Grand Old House and the money raised at the event was donated to George Town Primary – the location of where we attended Secondary Modern School as students and got an education,” Ms. Rankine said. 

Other former students, Lana Mae Crowe-Smith, Alex O’Neil and Stephanie McLean, spoke of all the friends they made attending Secondary Modern School. They also talked about traveling on the school bus from the various districts and getting the opportunity to take out-of-town students home for lunch to meet their parents. 

Reminiscing on school days, the group explained that most students attending Secondary Modern School were between the ages of 11 and 13. They stayed at the school for three years, did leaving school exams and were given leaving certificates. That was the highest level of education available at the time. Eventually, the secondary school was merged with the Cayman Islands High School. 

The committee’s next project is to have a plaque erected at George Town Primary in memory of Secondary Modern School. 

Former students of Secondary Modern School with George Town Primary School students. The group of adults donated money to the school’s library. – Photo: Jewel Levy
Former students of Secondary Modern School with George Town Primary School students. The group of adults donated money to the school’s library. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Principal Marie Martin, left, receives the library donation

Principal Marie Martin, left, receives the library donation from former Secondary Modern School students Lana Mae Crowe-Smith, Alex O’Neil, Stephanie McLean, Lucy Frederick-Ebanks, Carol Stephens, Edwardo Miller and Virginia Ebanks Rankine. – Photo: Jewel Levy