The only constant in life is Change. It’s inevitable. “Our ability to adapt to change is what determines our success.” The famous words of Benjamin Franklin. When we began our year with the election of our Directors for the 2019 – 2020 year, who knew what was in store for us? But here we are at the close of the year that was filled with unexpected turns to which we had to adapt. And adapt we did!
We Began … In late September with a Board Retreat where we explored our plans for the upcoming year including our plans to celebrate UJAA’s 30th Anniversary. We hoped to make it banner year of activities as we reflected on our 30 years of commitment and dedication to our young people, our schools and our country – Jamaica.
October saw an 18 person delegation including 8 students representing 6 schools (Convent of Mercy Alpha Academy, Calabar, Immaculate Conception, Jamaica College, St. George’s College, and St. Jago) and 4 adults from Jamaica travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for the 3rd Annual FIRST Global Challenge Robotics Competition. Over 10 days, we experienced the wonders of the Arab culture and cuisine as we prepared to support our Team Jamaica in the competition with 188 teams from almost as many countries. Team Jamaica came away with the Katherine Johnson Award for Engineering Documentation. Sincere thanks to Karlene Largie who served as our Project Manager, to Karen Wilson Robinson of Immaculate Conception High School and Carl Bennett of Jamaica College who shared the chaperone duties.
Our November Presidents’ Roundtable saw a hearty discussion about the new Global Jamaica Diaspora Council as we prepared for the election of our Northeast representative. In addition, as we have done for the past 11 years, we held our Annual Service of Thanksgiving which provided a moment of reflection on our many blessings. We were treated to the phenomenal voices of Derrick Warmington of Mico Old Students Association and Andrew Clarke of Braata Productions, and the contributions of several member organizations including Denham Town, Cornwall College, Dinthill Technical, York Street and Wolmer’s to name just a few. They say when you sing, you pray twice. Well, pray we did and joyfully so. Sincere thanks to Vice President Wilson and Director Evelyn Godden for leading this occasion, and to each of the fifty-one of you who assisted and attended.
December saw us conclude our holiday season with donations to Operation Restoration Christian School and Irie Butterfly Foundation, and celebrated the certification by Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission of our school – Industry Cove Basic School and Community Center in Cousins Cove, Hanover.
I will pause to note that I was privileged to be invited to represent UJAA at 22 events, including 12 alumni fundraisers, during this 4 month period. I remain honored and humbled to be included in your parties, reunions and dinner dances.
We began 2020 with optimism and fervor as we concluded our 2019 Year In Review project, led by Melanie Forrest George and Karlene Largie, and began to make plans for our 30th Anniversary. January also saw our continued collaboration with The Math Club for the annual Martin Luther King Mathematics Competition in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. My sincere thanks to Michael Salmon who assumed the leadership of this project as well as all who participated and supported this important initiative. UJAA contributed $4,500 to this program which provides laptops and cash prizes to several students. Given our level of contribution, the team is reviewing how we can better leverage the UJAA name to this project as we go forward.
February brought our Presidents’ Roundtable with attendance by our newly elected Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Northeast representative, Dr. Karren Dunkley as well as presentations from several organizations with whom we collaborate from time to time. This meeting also planted the seeds for the creation of a team to guide the development of UJAA’s Strategic Plan as we look towards our next 30 years. At the end of February, UJAA attended and participated in the 2nd FIRST Technology Challenge – Jamaica Robotics Competition which was held at Jamaica College in Kingston as a sponsor of the FTC Dean’s List Awards.
And then our world changed as the COVID-19 Pandemic became a reality! We saw ourselves listening intently to the daily briefings of NY Governor Cuomo, heeded the advise of our health professionals to stay at home, wash our hands frequently and for 20 seconds, and limited our interactions with others. We watched with sadness as the virus waged war against our healthcare and essential workers as well as our fellow citizens as we wondered if our world would ever be the same. Our schools closed which caused a whole other chain of events for students, teachers, administrators and parents who now grappled with online learning in conjunction with working from home - for those who were still employed and could work remotely. This global pandemic saw unprecedented impact on each of us personally, to our families and communities as well as to our fellow Jamaicans – both here and in Jamaica. As a result, we saw us cancel or postpone our in-person meetings and events, and hunkered down to see this through as safely as possible.
By April, we had found ZOOM and began to recalibrate our lives with what we believed might well be our new normal. We began to realize that our lives – including those of our schools, teachers, students – are forever changed. And so, we adjusted and strived to find new ways forward.
In May, we held our Presidents’ Roundtable and General Meeting via Zoom with over 55 attendees and a memorable presentation attesting to the power of communication and collaboration by the York Castle Alumni Association along with their Principal. Families and organizations began to use online platforms to bring us together … if only to touch base and/or to share a virtual cup of tea. We conducted a Virtual Pass-The-Hat as we supported our Jamaican students who were now stranded in the USA – with no school and no job. Our Emergency Assistance Fund saw 31 contributions that totaled $6,450 which allowed us to support 27 students with donations including rent, food and/or pocket money. May also saw the establishment of the COVID-19 Care Packages Project in collaboration with the Lasco Chin Foundation and the Jamaica Alumni Associations of High Schools in Jamaica. Over 3 months, we provided 2,526 care packages to 47 schools, 36 of which were UJAA member organization schools. Sincere thanks to all who supported these initiatives that made a difference for our fellow Jamaicans both here and abroad.
By June, we had formulated a new plan for our Mega Raffle which was postponed from late March. In late June, under the leadership of Natasha Davids, we hosted our first Virtual High School Graduate Awards – and a fabulous event it was. The platform afforded participation by students from across the country as well as viewing by over 3,000 friends and family members! This event cemented our view that the virtual environment, although thrust on us in an unfortunate way, did have an upside. Challenges create opportunities – if only we’re open to them!
In June and then in July, saw UJAA’s involvement in JDTAN’s Diaspora Day Virtual celebration on June 16th as well as the JDETF’s 5th Education Summit (the first virtual one) to over 700 teachers across 3 days. These events were attended by many from our schools in Jamaica as well as in the free Jaminars – professional development workshops - for our Jamaican professionals grappling with the change wrought by the pandemic. In addition, our schools began participating in a virtual STEM Competition organized by the FIRST Global Challenge team. Over 16 schools are currently engaged in various challenges aimed at increasing teamwork and collaboration by our students as they explore solutions to our new virtual world.
I would be remiss if I did not mention our Mega Raffle Drawing that was held on July 25th. The 4 month delay saw commensurate performance by the participating organizations in generating funds for their organizations. We realize that it was, for many organizations, their only fundraiser for the year. My sincere thanks once again for the support and cooperation of the participating organizations. We worked it through – month by month – and we got there! We are also thankful that your continued commitment to this collaborative approach to fundraising, and hope that you join me in our consideration of how we continue this initiative – perhaps in new, creative ways – as we go forward. Our 24th Mega Raffle and 30th anniversary Lexus will be delivered next week (late September), so please stay tuned for pictures!
By August, we signed our Memorandum of Understanding with SmartTerm Ltd. which provides an online platform for schools for both administration and learning. This relationship provides a broad platform of services for schools with reduced pricing for UJAA member schools. We are hopeful that this too will make a difference for our schools as online learning becomes the norm and not the exception.
By this time, our calendars are all now filled with virtual meetings and events from morning until night. We have each begun exploring virtual fundraisers and adjusting to a new way of life. We concluded our year by looking once again to the future. The Board of Directors has established an UJAA Advisory Board for 2020 – 2021. With this team, we hope to return to the development of UJAA Strategic Plans as we look forward to our next 30 years.
Special recognition must be extended to Evelyn Godden and our Primary Schools team who are now 10 schools strong. They continue to work together to develop programs for their schools and to partner with high schools to move the primary schools’ agenda. I am particularly proud of the collaborative spirit shown by this team and expect that we will see and hear much more from them in times to come.
In closing, my sincere thanks to the phenomenal members of UJAA’s Board of Directors who pulled together and flexed with me this year as we strived to support each other and each of you. It is my hope that you concur with our assessment that, despite the challenges, we continued the business of UJAA – to make a difference in the lives of our students and schools in Jamaica as well as our fellow Jamaicans and communities here. We close the year with a continued record of achievement as evidenced by the Annual Reports for our many and various teams, and with a record 60 members.
I am thankful once again for your vote of confidence by affording me the opportunity – for an additional 2 years - to serve our young people and our island home, and with the help of our leadership team and you, to maintain the high esteem with which UJAA is regarded, and to make you proud to be UJAA. I look forward to working with our 2020-2021 Board of Directors as well as our newly minted Advisory Board to being more, doing more, working smarter, making an even bigger impact - as we continue to promote excellence and growth for our organizations, our schools, our Jamaica. In these ever-changing times, it is even more important that we affirm and stand firmly by our belief that: Education is Empowerment; Only the Educated are Free.”
16th September 2020
2018 – 2019 PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Annual General Meeting
11 September 2019
The UJAA Leadership team began 2018 with reflection. The great poet Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” During a series of meetings across a few months, the team took some time to reflect – to understand where we are, and how we got here. And from there, we developed a 19 point plan for where we want to go. The plan was grouped into 5 categories:
Our Brand – improving and enhancing it
Our Membership – growing our membership and helping our current members to grow as well
Our Funding – understanding our funding mechanisms and developing new ways for funding our projects
Our Programs – developing new ways to include our young people
Our Operations – completing Standard Operating Procedures, and revitalizing several committees including Building and Finance committees, as well as our Advisory Board.
Throughout the year, then, we paused to reflect – to ensure that we were staying true to our vision for growth and development. Through this report, we once again take stock on our achievements, our challenges and our opportunities for improvement.
Our report from our Public Relations team illustrates the progress that we have made is building our brand. The team, under the co-leadership of Assistant Treasurer Wilbert Davis and Director Karlene Largie, developed a rhythm for sharing and supporting our work with our community – both here in the USA, as well as in Jamaica. We cemented partnerships with both radio and print media who assisted us in promoting our core events, as well as our involvement in Diaspora initiatives. Our participation in the 8th Biennial Diaspora Conference – providing the welcome address on behalf of the Diaspora at the conference’s opening ceremony, our participation in the Education Plenary, and our presence in the Marketplace – underscores the growing impact of our UJAA Brand. We assisted in concrete ways with the implementation of several initiatives both here in the NY area – for example, the Math Club’s Martin Luther King Day Mathematics Competition, and in the Diaspora, for example - the Jamaica Diaspora NE Leadership Summit in Morrow, Georgia. In keeping with our belief in collaboration, we donated to and/or attended a plethora of events and programs throughout the year. My thanks to the Public Relations team as well as the UJAA Board of Directors for their commitment to this important aspect of our strategic plan. As we go forward, with vigilance and dedication, we will monitor these approaches to ensure that we continue to obtain the desired effect of our efforts.
For the first time in eight years that we’ve been actively tracking our membership dues payments, we achieved a milestone in July 2019 when the dues for all 54 member organizations was paid for the fiscal year. 87% of the organizations paid within the first three months of the year. This is reflective, I believe, of an increased understanding of our organizations as businesses, and acknowledgement of the need to meet our commitments in a timely way. Thank you for helping us make this milestone achievement. I hope that you join us in our goal of having this result be the norm, instead of the exception, in years to come.
This year, we revisited our building initiative that began many years ago. Under the leadership of Vice President, Donovan Wilson, we developed a clear understanding of what is required for us to own a building in the 21st century. Two teams were identified by the team as required to be established if owning a building is to be a priority of UJAA over the next 3 to 5 years. I look forward to us putting these teams in place and to moving that initiative forward.
As we look to grow and change our funding mechanisms within UJAA, we will need to develop better methods of understanding our sources and uses of funds. “If we are to know where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been.” I look forward to the working with our Finance Committee to aid the UJAA leadership team in this area.
UJAA’s programs have proven to be our bedrock. We continued our expanded involvement in the Math Club’s MLKing Program, contributed 7 water tanks to needed schools, and continued our support as the administrator of the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation’s Scholarship program.
Our Robotics initiatives continued this year. JCOBA’s vision of 10 years ago was realized with the establishment of the FIRST Technology Challenge local competition in Jamaica with 18 schools participating. Congratulations to the JCOBA team for their vision and tenacity in realizing this goal. We increased our support of the Red Springs Robotics Competition, and are poised to visit Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as a participant, for the 3rd year, in the FIRST Global Challenge in October of this year. The extraordinary financial support by Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Information this year underscores their recognition of UJAA’s commitment to this opportunity for our students - as global citizens equipped to tackle the challenges of our world, and to the potential impact on our country. We are thankful for this recognition, and are mindful of the responsibility and accountability that comes with this support.
We continued of support of Operation Restoration Christian School by assisting with bathroom renovations and roof repair, funded their summer program, and provided a large barrel of new clothing and supplies.
Our High School Graduate awards program once again brought the phenomenal achievements of our young people to the fore. Our inclusion of our HSGA Alums in the program paves the way for the development of an initiative that continues to engage these young people in our work and in our connections to Jamaica. I am excited about the possibilities that this opportunity affords, and welcome your ideas for growing the involvement of our young persons.
UJAA’s support of the Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Association’s Emerging Global Leaders – Jamaica program has opened yet another door for involvement with our students both in Jamaica as well as from the greater NYC area. This year, our EGL team of Clair Menzies, Michael Salmon, Barbara Lewis and Evelyn Godden allowed us to expand our participation in this program by selecting two phenomenal students – Samantha Matthews and Danel Powell - who, with Ms. Menzies as chaperone, participated in the EGLJ program at Knox College in Clarendon in July. As we heard from the students, it was a life-changing experience. My sincere thanks to the team who guided us through this new process and establishing the platform for growing this initiative. Congratulations and thank you also to Michael Salmon who was a keynote presenter at this year’s EGL-J Program. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with AJAA, as well as our expanding our involvement with this program by promoting the development of more of our young people, and to learning and growing with them.
Our 2019 Mega Raffle provided record levels of participation and fundraising for us. We have outgrown our venue and our drum (once again) and will be looking to change those aspects of the project for 2020. Our Penn Relays Bus Ride fundraiser continued its record of success, as was our Annual Service of Thanksgiving that included songs of praise by Andrew Clarke of Braata Productions and Derek Warmington of Mico Old Students Association. I am grateful that these gentlemen chose to share their gifts with us and look forward to enjoying their talents in times to come.
Our commitment to our Industry Cove Basic School in Hanover has not waned as we continued our support with school supplies and Friday uniforms, and funded and supervised the necessary improvements needed by the school to be certified by Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission. We are hopeful for certification by December 2019. Our Primary Schools Team continued their Gurian Institute Training initiative. We look forward to hearing more from this team in the near future.
Our 2nd New Year’s Eve Ball, although not a financial success, provided a souvenir “year-in-review” journal that documents the outstanding contributions of our organizations – individually and collectively. This documentation allowed many of you to readily participate in the Gleaner Company’s Special Alumni Feature in early March. While the ball will not continue, the Year-In-Review initiative is being planned, particularly as we approach our 30th Anniversary celebrations in the coming year.
In the area of UJAA operations, we’ve seen improvements on several fronts. Our membership team has developed a process for automated dues notices, and will be updating/changing our website within the next few months. A Hospitality team, led by Melanie Forrest-George, is now in place for managing the refreshments that have become the norm at our meetings. While the development of our financial SOPs has been slow, we’ve made good progress in documenting the processes for managing several of our major projects. Many thanks to Natasha Davids and Karlene Largie who made major contributions to this initiative.
Our efforts to establish a UJAA Advisory Board have not yet borne fruit. But we will continue to search for those willing individuals who are interested and committed to helping us to grow and enhance UJAA.
Finally, our Presidents’ Roundtable meetings has afforded us time together and real discussion. There are rarely enough hours in the day for these meetings. They continue to provide an opportunity for us to learn and grow together, and to collaborate in more meaningful ways. I appreciated the constructive feedback that we’ve received regarding these meetings and hope to continue to keep them relevant and productive. Our thanks for your continued active participation and involvement.
In closing, my sincere thanks to the UJAA Board of Directors who worked hard with me - sometimes late into the night - to do the work of UJAA. Even after 5 years, I remain in awe of the depth and breadth of our work and the difference that we make in the lives of our schools, our island home, our communities here in NY and each other. Sincere thanks also to the member organizations who attended our meetings, who invited UJAA to celebrate your dinner dances, boat rides, and reunions with you, and for your feedback and support. As I enter my final year as president, I am excited to work with the 2019-2020 Board of Directors to continue our record of achievement. There is more that we can do. So, let’s join hands and do this! As we look forward to our 30th Anniversary, let’s consider the challenges before us – at our schools, our island home as well as those of our Diaspora. Let’s continue our efforts and step up our game. And let’s remember always, that “Education is empowerment; only the educated are free.”
Welcome to the Union of Jamaican Alumni Association (UJAA) website. It is with a deep sense of pride and joy that we celebrate our 25th Anniversary. As we continue to work together to build the UJAA of the 21st century, let us take a moment to reflect on all our accomplishments. Over the past 25 years, we have built:
A strong union of Jamaican Alumni Association members who support each other.
A High School Graduates Award Recognition program that has donated over $250,000 and that has been embraced by our community.
A strong support of other organizations both in Jamaica and within the Diaspora.
Recognition by the Jamaica Ministry of Education as a leader amongst educational organizations within the USA.
These achievements are significant as there is no greater tribute to our programs than their appreciation and success. All of this is encapsulated in our anniversary theme, “United in our Commitment and Dedication to Service.” I credit the dedication of the Board of Directors over the past 25 years and the support of our membership base and community for these achievements.
Our primary goal has been and will always be to “Promote academic excellence at all levels of schools in Jamaica and in particular to improve education in Basic and Primary schools throughout the Island.” With your help we have done a tremendous job of meeting a wide range of needs - appliances, water tanks, computers, books, equipment, furniture and fencing.
But, let us not rest on our laurels, as there is still much to be done in terms of building on our legacy. For this, our silver anniversary year, let us celebrate with gratitude – gratitude for the country of our birth and for the schools that will provide future generations with a stellar education. May our union continue to strive for greater heights and strength!