Grateful for the quality education they received at Wolmer’s, alumni in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are giving back in a big way to their Jamaican high school.
The alumni group raises funds to support the delivery of educational services at their alma mater and also to provide scholarships, with the aid of Canadian supporters, to young Canadians of Jamaican heritage and Jamaican students pursuing post-secondary education.
This year, the Wolmer’s Alumni Association Toronto chapter donated CAD$50,000 for the renovation of the boys’ school library and three bathrooms at the girls’ school. The organization has also expanded its financial awards program.
“Wolmer’s has definitely played a huge role in shaping my life and preparing me for the challenges that lie ahead,” said Dominic Walter, who was the recipient of a $500 bursary. “I am just happy to be the beneficiary of this award.”
The school’s 2008 Sportsman of the Year and McMaster University mechanical engineering student spent two years at Daytona State College in Florida after graduating from Wolmer’s.
The 19-year-old is one of Jamaica’s top swimmers, having represented the country at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean championships in Puerto Rico and last year’s Commonwealth Youth Games in India. The freestyle swimmer aspires to represent Jamaica at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Trent University International Program scholarship winners, Cornel Grey and Monique Fitzgerald, were also awarded bursaries at the Wolmer’s annual fundraising event, dubbed “The Great Luncheon Concert”.
A second-year student, Grey aspires to be a clinical sociologist specializing in child development.
“I changed my major from English to Sociology during the year because I find sociology to be more fascinating,” he said. “I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life and concluded that this might be a better fit.”
Fitzgerald, 19, intends to become a forensic anthropologist.
Other scholarship and bursary winners were Daunaree Jackson, who is a second-year student at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; Tashanna Walker, who is pursuing geography studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI); University of Technology second-year dentistry student, Channecke Kinlocke and UWI medical students, Givana Witter, Monique Kildaire and Osaro Haye.
Former Jamaica youth soccer player, Kaya Beckford (King Kaya), was presented with a $1,500 scholarship at the Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations’ 20th annual celebration last July.
The rap and spoken word artist spent a year at the Valencia Soccer Academy in Spain while enrolled in Glenmuir High School. Born in the GTA, he lived in Jamaica for four years after living in Barbados for three years and Dominica for 12 months.
Kaya, who completed high school at Silverthorn Collegiate Institute, is studying psychology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
Wolmer’s past students president Jennifer De Four said the alumni organization is dedicated to financially supporting the school’s outstanding achievers and young graduates.
“As former students, we are the beneficiaries of a quality foundational education and we wish the same for those currently migrating through the school,” said De Four, a certified industrial hygienist who graduated from the UWI and the University of Toronto.
This year’s fundraising concert featured celebrated composer Peter Ashbourne, jazz vocalist Karen Smith, who is a Concordia University business degree graduate and her husband Jackie Jackson, a bass player and long-serving Toots & the Maytals band member.
Veteran Caribbean sports journalist, Lance Whittaker, was the Master of Ceremonies. A 1980 Wolmer’s graduate who represented Harrison House in cricket, soccer, table and lawn tennis and track and field, Whittaker spent 11 years with the Radio Jamaica & Rediffusion Network before relocating to Barbados, where he was with the Caribbean News Agency and the Caribbean Media Corporation for 16 years.
He returned to Jamaica in April 2010 to become vice–president and executive producer at SportsMax TV, the Caribbean’s 24-hour sports cable channel. The veteran sports producer has covered five Olympics, including the London Games where Usain Bolt won gold medals in the 100-, 200- and 4 x 100-metre events.
After Bolt won the 200-metre race, becoming the only male athlete to win the sprint double in two Olympics, Whittaker – who called the race – was captured on North American television asking the question: “Is there a throne in England big enough to hold this man? I think not.”
Wolmer’s was established in 1729 when philanthropist John Wolmer bequeathed £2,360 for the foundation of a “free school”. The Wolmer’s Group of Schools now comprises pre-school and preparatory boys’ and girls’ schools, with an enrolment of almost 4,000.
Wolmer’s produced the late Rosemary Brown, who was the first Black woman elected to a Canadian legislature; Rhodes Scholar Donald Bogle and York University associate professor Dr. Andrea Davis, who attended the event; Olympic 100-metre champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce; former Jamaican Prime Minster Edward Seaga and several West Indies cricketers, including Jackie Hendriks, Gerry Alexander, Maurice Foster, Jeffrey Dujon, Gareth Breese, Carlton Baugh and the late Alan Rae, Ivan Barrow and Karl Nunes.