On Monday we welcomed three new instructors. ELiTE board member Ken Yearwood came to co-teach the energy class with O. Dennis. Lucy’s water class would be completed by Sherefa Leslie and Marc Thomas. Sherefa and Marc are both 4th year Chemical Engineering students at UTech and are very welcome additions to our team. The electronics class would continue to be taught by Chelsey.
Despite so many new faces, the first class of the day went very well. At the end of class Jamaica Information Services made a surprise visit to record some of our work and highlight our students as participants of the UTech Teach the Youth initiative.
Monday afternoon I received an email apologizing for the lunches being late once again and informing me that someone would visit our program on Tuesday to give a health and sex education talk at lunch time.
Tuesday we had a total of 7 students, all of whom walked from their homes. As always, classes were expected to begin at 10:00am. At 11:30am I was notified that the bus “forgot” to pick up the students. No further explanation was given to us…
[I have no additional comments that I wish to share publicly regarding this.]
Working with such a small group allowed us to provide opportunities to these students that we could not provide for the collective group. Students were given tours of laboratories and conducted experiments to measure which fuel source burned the cleanest and most efficiently. Later they were treated to lunch at Juici Patty, taught hoe to use Excel, Google, and Wikipedia as educational tools.
On Wednesday, the students from Augusttown, High Light view, and Kintyr were dropped off at 10:45. As what was now the expectation, there was no explanation as to their whereabouts. As an aside, we were joined in the morning by Charlotte Powely, another Columbia Alum (congrats BC’11) who assisted with the energy/electronics class.
Lunch was on time today.
Late Wednesday afternoon Charlotte lead a health and sex education discussion to replace the Tuesday Student Union speaker to never showed up.
Finally, before dismissing the students, we informed them about the activities for Thursday. Rather than concluding our program on Friday as planned, we decided it would be best to have our own ceremony on Thursday rather than creating a potential opportunity for disappointment by waiting to recognize our students’ achievements during the Friday Teach the Youth closing ceremonies, as previously arranged.
Despite the excitement from the students on Wednesday afternoon, we only had 7 students on Thursday morning by 10:30. Around this time a group of 15 students walked in hot and sweaty. Apparently they attempted to board the bus to school this morning and were denied service. Because they really wanted to attend the classes, they decided to walk miles to the campus in the hot sun to be present for our final celebration.
After another round of emails and phone calls to the Teach the Youth administrators I was finally able to communicate with someone. I first spoke to one of the site coordinators who informed me that the students from her site had no interest in attending our program that day. She told me that students had been given the option to attend our program but chose not to. She then pleaded that we not be upset with her superior over the situation. I thanked her for taking the time to finally answer the phone and speak with me. I then informed her that students walked miles to be present for out program after being turned away from the bus, so while I respected her position on the matter, I was inclined to listen to my students whom walked miles in the hot sun to arrive for the presentation.
Realizing that our communication with the organization had become unproductive, I decided to end the discussion and move on with the day.
The students were placed in teams of 4 where they competed against one another in a quiz bowl competition. At the end of the competition, Dr. Noel Brown, the Director of the Mechanical Engineering Department, and the Director of the Chemical Engineering Department addressed the students to commend them for successfully completing the program despite challenges with food and transportation.
Finally we awarded certificates and rewarded the students who were able to attend our celebration with soda, patties, candy, and Columbia engineering shirts. At the end of the ceremony, I was again contacted by the Student Union representatives to inform me that that they would not provide transportation for us to visit the students in the communities who were unable to attend our program that afternoon as previously arranged that morning. The justification was that al the students had already left the community centers for the day so there would be no one there to see.
Thankfully, we had been communicating with the students directly all day as well so I did not put much weight into the stories that we were being told. We loaded our instructors into a taxi with food, drinks, certificates, and gifts and embarked for Augusttown. When we arrived in “A-Town” EVERY SINGLE STUDENT WHOM WE TAUGHT was waiting for us. We shared an embrace, handed out the tokens to the students, and apologized for the disservice that was done to them. The students were grateful for our efforts and pledged to give us their full support as we seek to move forward and grow the program, independently.