Happy Holidays and thank you so much to everyone who has shown their love this season with a donation to the students of Caye Caulker Ocean Academy. There are so many heart-warming stories to share with you about how your donations are making a difference in Belizean children's lives and we thank each and every one of you for your kindness.
Family sponsors scholarships at Ocean Academy
Brenda and Rob Horn from Wisconsin have six children, and recently "adopted" two more at Caye Caulker Ocean Academy. The family will be sponsoring a full four-year scholarship for one student, and partially assisting another. Brenda and Rob emailed us after their school visit: "we had a long talk with all of our children last night. We told them the statistics that less than 40% of children go to high school, and less than 10% of Caye Caulker children graduate, and that made them very sad. We told them that we were sure as OA grows, more children will attend high school and graduate. We also explained to them the average salary of a Caye Caulker resident, and how much it costs to attend school. They asked really good questions about the salary of the teachers, the cost of electricity, lights, supplies, water etc., when they saw a picture of the school. They all agreed they were very happy our family is sponsoring and wished we could help more. This lead into another really good conversation about "wanting" something versus "needing" something. Our children really want to come to Caye Caulker someday to see the school and meet [our student]... Our visit with your school and meeting the staff and children, is already making a difference in our own home in such a positive way so thank you again!".
Ocean Academy students entertain the community with Christmas Games and Show
Ocean Academy students, teachers and volunteers worked all week to set up this year's Christmas Extravaganza on Caye Caulker. During the day, the high-schoolers ran games for the island children such as fishing pond, facepainting, bucket and dart throws, arts and crafts centre, photos with Santa and a dice and paddle game. In the evening the Ocean Academy students entertained the community with guitar, choir, dance performances as well as skits and poems, More photos can be seen on our school Facebook page (Caye Caulker Ocean Academy).
Five Jr. Science students win trip to Planetarium and Mayan Museum in Mexico
The Mexican Embassy took 100 of the best Belizean students for a trip to visit the new Planetarium and the Museum of the Mayan Culture in Chetumal, Mexico. 5 Ocean Academy students and their science teacher were selected! The aim of the trip was to expand the knowledge in astronomy and Mayan culture among Belizean students. More photos are on our school Facebook page (Caye Caulker Ocean Academy).
Our environment and planet
The school motto is "Preserving our heritage, creating our future".To celebrate the American Thanksgiving holiday, the entire student body spent the afternoon on the north side of our island to show our committment and appreciation for the environment. 62 students, 7 teachers, 1 co-founder and 3 volunteers planted zericote seedlings on the shore, mangrove seedlings in the sea, and cleared the Forest Reserve trails of dead brush. A few photos are attached to this report and more are on our Facebook page for Caye Caulker Ocean Academy.
Our student leaders
Educating also means bringing out the very best qualities and gifts within our students such as leadership. Ocean Academy students are active in a Student Leadership Council, an Interact Volunteer Club and a Girls Empowerment Club. Students leaders of today will soon become the leaders of Belize!
You! Our volunteers, donors and supporters
Hear in the students' own words how your donations and goodwill have made a difference in their lives, and inspired them to continue with their educational dreams.
Students are not the only ones going back to classes! During the month of August, Ocean Academy teachers participated in professional development workshops and met with colleagues to discuss curriculum and lesson planning, assessment, differentiated learning, youth engagement, and positive behaviour management plans.
The student Compost and Gardening group was also busy during the summer tending their crops of cilantro, basil, arugula and mint. They returned to school to learn that their project work has been selected as a finalist for the Belize National Youth Recognition Awards in the category of Environmentalism. I'll be sure to post another report when we find out the results.
Ocean Academy classes resumed on August 29th with a full school of 60 students in all four forms. We are excited to welcome 21 new highschoolers out of the class of 28 who graduated from the island primary school. We also have transfer students from the neighbouring island and even the capital city. We need to pay five full-time and two part-time Belizean teachers, as well as our Belizean Principal. A full school also means that we are short on desks and chairs, computers (5 students need to share at present), books and space. Our library hallway is insufficient to hold the resources needed for English classes but we don't have the funds to build a proper room and shelving. Most importantly, many of our students are still hoping for tuition scholarships and sponsors so that they can stay in school this year. If you are willing to donate again it would create tremendous opportunities and make a real difference in a student's life as we start this school year.
In addition to the enclosed photos, I have posted links to our school blog where you can keep up-to-date between reports, as well as links to two short videos. One is a brief history of Ocean Academy, the other is a video the students created to express their sincere appreciation to all the donors, volunteers and supporters. We hope you enjoy "meeting" the students and hearing in their own words what your support means to them and their dreams for the future.
Amira Marin, Danny Marin, Lexee Marin and Morgan Carrasco might be a small class, but they are the pride of Caye Caulker as the very first graduates of Ocean Academy. Founded in 2008, Ocean Academy is the first non-profit community high school on Caye Caulker, Belize and this your generous support helped make this milestone happen.
Principal Hilda Marin opened the June 11th, 2011 graduation ceremony by unveiling Ocean Academy’s new crest. An open book symbolizes the importance of learning, three gold coins represent the three co-founders’ contributions, a dolphin symbolizes the freedom that education brings, rolling waves show our desire to push forward around the world, mangroves signify strength and stability, and foliage around the shield indicates the school’s deep respect and protection of the environment.
Music was integrated throughout the ceremony, starting with the Pomp and Circumstance processional, a guitar performance by student Lilly Aldana of "Stand By Me" and ending with an inspiring interpretation by the graduates of the song “The World’s Greatest”.
"I’m that star up in the sky, I’m that mountain peak up high, Hey I made it, I’m the world’s greatest, And I’m that little bit of hope, When my back’s against the ropes, I can feel it, I’m the world’s greatest".
And this group of young people truly have great plans! Danny has been accepted into the University of Belize, and Amira will study at Muffles. Morgan will continue his work with environmental conservation groups. Lexee has been hired at Belize Diving Services after successfully completing her Advance Diving course through Ocean Academy’s aquatic tourism P.E.
To see more photos of the ceremony and celebration, go to the school website (link below) or visit the Facebook page for Caye Caulker Ocean Academy.
Children from the primary school and community members all enjoyed Ocean Academy's interactive science exhibits on May 11th. Displays included solar power, circuits, lemon juice rocket, soil erosion models, animal habitats, waste management solutions for small islands and more. To see photos, click the links for our Facebook or website "What's New" pages.
Your donations through Global Giving support student scholarships and school programs. Other good news is that International Friends of Belize renewed $500usd scholarships for three Ocean Academy students. More than 50 students applied nation-wide. We are so proud, and know that these scholarships make a huge difference in our students' lives.
"From the moment I met Mercedes I knew she would be the environmental leader who will have the greatest impact on Caye Caulker" - Heidi Curry, Administrator, Nomination Letter
"Jaison is a very humble young man. He is also honest, responsible and respectful...When I arrive at school with a load of instruments he runs to help me carry them to class. I never asked for help. He just does it. I appreciate it very much" - Scotty Poock, Volunteer Music Teacher, Nomination Letter
"Receiving this award makes me feel proud of myself for all the hard work I have done. It makes me feel that I am making the right choices in my life that make people proud of me and willing to help. I'm thankful you have such big hearts" - Lilly Aldana, Student, Thank-You Letter
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