Robert Smart - President 2022-2023

It is with great pride that I take this opportunity to greet you as president of this association. I believe that Cornwall College Alumni Association of South Florida (CCAA) embodies the best of Cornwall by providing a way for alumni to work together for the common good and transforming shared beliefs and hopes for a better Cornwall College. Our alumni are the product of one of the oldest educational establishments in Western Jamaica, dating back to the 19th century, and our rich history is a direct result of the caring mindset of the alumni, administration and supporters of Cornwall College.

Before the pandemic started, back in 2019, we identified that the school’s science labs were outdated and in need of substantial repairs. As a result, we embarked on a project to renovate the chemistry lab. The entire skeletal structure of the lab required modernization to properly support the teachers and students in a changing 21st century global environment. We made an appeal at our 2019 dinner dance and combined resources with the Kingston and Montego Bay chapters to start the renovation of the lab. While COVID-19 delayed the progress of the renovations, we are pleased to report that the science lab work has been effectively completed and handed off to the school and classes have resumed this year.

While the pandemic has had a devastating impact globally, Jamaica was dealt a severe blow because of the country’s heavy reliance on the tourism industry. It was severely impacted by the closing of the country’s borders and businesses in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. According to a UNICEF study, Jamaican households suffered a significant reduction in income, lowered levels of childhood education engagement and increased stress levels in the household. When educational institutions were forced to lockdown, the student population of Jamaica became disengaged from learning because some students did not have the technology to connect and attend classes remotely. Our organization, on hearing the urgent need to bridge the gap with the students who were disconnected from the classroom, responded with multiple scholarships, laptop devices and care packages. This much needed aid prevented our students from failing their exams.

The pandemic also promulgated other ways for our CCAA group to meet and collaborate via virtual seminars and zoom parties. The virtual seminars delved into a myriad of pandemic topics including COVID-19 stress management, COVID-19 science, politics & vaccines. We also focused on other educational learning topics such as Colorectal Cancer & Prostate awareness and Mental Health. While our seminars provided information and learning, our zoom parties kept us together and allowed us to socialize and momentarily shift our minds off the pandemic and enjoy the musical selections of our very talented DJs.

During the pandemic, we saw our cash reserves dwindle due to the inability to stage our major fundraising events. Together with the uncertainty of the future and new demands, we were forced to become more creative in order to get things done and learned to make accommodations, when necessary, given the pandemics strict protocols. Despite the many financial constraints and COVID social distancing rules, we kept our foot on the gas and our pre pandemic commitments were satisfied.

We have averaged about 70 active members in the association for a few years now and realized that we must appeal to a younger demography in order to achieve much needed growth. We have engaged marketing professionals to enhance our social media platforms and websites to broaden our outreach. This has modernized our systems and processes, and greatly improved our digital footprint.

Post pandemic, 2022 has become the year of transition. We are living differently, working differently, and also take greater appreciation for things no matter how big or small. We have lost loved ones and friends and learnt to have a stronger sense of gratitude each day. We have realized the important need to show our appreciation for those who are still a part of our lives. With that said, I wish to express my sincere thanks to the members of the CCAA executive body for their dynamism and years of dedicated service to this organization. Some of our members have been with the organization since the inception and still have a genuine interest in continuing to effect change at our alma mater and for that I wish to publicly say Thank You!

In closing, I am motivated by a quote from Joan Marques and hope it resonates with you as well… “It’s easier to take than to give. It’s nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime.”

Robert Smart,
President Cornwall College Alumni Association of South Florida Chapter
Class of 1988