Washington DC.The Philadelphia-based Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Cornwall College Old Boys Association (CCOBAMA) has been a beacon as it seeks to empower the instructional and learning infrastructure of the Montego Bay institution.
Since its formation two-and-half years ago, CCOBAMA has spearheaded a series of projects that bode well for the famed 124-year-old Jamaican all-boys high school.
Leading the charge of this young chapter is its President, a Class of 1986 "old boy," Neville Bell. He shared the history of the organization. "The chapter began as an informal initiative to support the Cornwall College Penn Relays team during their stay in Philadelphia," stated Bell. His motivation to support students from his alma mater drove him to delve more into honored commitments. "Each year I rent a van, and from the moment of arrival at the airport to their departure we take care for the team."
Bell said that three years later, other Cornwallians in the Pennsylvania-Delaware-Maryland tri-state area got involved and started looking into ways to address needs at the school. Some names that readily stood out included Audley Mitchell, Michael Williams, Michael Brown, and Earl Findlater. They along with Bell decided to establish a legal entity. Thus, CCOBAMA was incorporated in April 2018 as a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
In April 2019, one of the first projects tackled was the creation of a computer lab at the school dedicated to technical drawing, based the AutoCAD program. Students and instructors alike were delighted at the prospect of complex designs being treated with modern and efficient technology.
The march continued as CCOBAMA moved to improve classrooms, science labs, and other key areas of infrastructure for instruction and learning. The school recently received a shipment of equipment, including 222 desk/chairs, 1 digital microscope for the teacher to facilitate blended learning, 5 microscopes, microscope plant, insect and animal specimen slides, 10 camcorders/webcams with tripods, eight multimedia projectors, and 10 projector screens. The Cornwall gift shipment also contained STEM equipment for physics and chemistry labs including over 600 flasks and beakers, a goggles/mask sanitizer, information technology equipment including servers, access points and switches. As an extension to Phase II of the AutoCAD project, 33 desktop computers were also given.
Cornwall College principal Michael Ellis was overjoyed in his appreciation. "I must let you know that this donation – or, should I say, a gift of classroom resources, ICT equipment, laboratory apparatus, and teaching aids – will ensure equitable and efficient access to and use of the resources, the information capabilities and the latest digital teaching equipment for all our students." He added: "It will build our capacity and make us better prepared for the virtual learning/blended learning environment for the inevitable reopening of school that has been thrust on us by the novel coronavirus."
The equipment provided to the alma mater represents a blend of donations and purchases to meet the intent of the chapter. The following benefactors were instrumental in making this venture a reality: The St. Joseph's High School of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey; and the Institute of Notre Dame, located in Baltimore, Maryland – the latter the alma mater of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
"Seeing the container being unloaded and knowing the difference the shipment would make to the students, the school, and the wider community was a truly proud moment for all of us," said Bell.
Cornwallians from other chapters contributed generously, too. The South Florida, Atlanta and Canada chapters played significant roles in helping to off-set shipping costs. Individual contributions encompassed CC "old boys" from the Classes of 1967 to 2002. On top of the financial contributions received, the Old Boys who showed up from New York, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania to share in the heavy lifting of loading the container cannot be overlooked.
Steve Petgrave, President of the CC Old Boys' chapter in Canada said, "When we heard what you (CCOBAMA) did on behalf of our alma mater by securing this donation from the schools, we thought it was our duty to offer assistance." He stressed, "Simply put, we are a community and supporting each other goes a long way."
And, this from Member of Parliament for Central St. James, Heroy Clarke: “I went to Cornwall College after passing my Common Entrance exams. I consider it a duty to give back to the school. Everything I am today, started with Cornwall College.” He stressed, “When I heard of this donation to the school, knowing firsthand the needs of the school, I knew I had to get involved to help make this happen.”