An education powerhouse
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, July 15 2012
Since its genesis 25 years ago, Atwell’s Educational Institute has been quietly making its mark on the local scholastic landscape.
Backed by the motto “Hard Work and Honesty achieve True Fulfilment,” the school’s students have captured many prestigious national awards, both in and out of the classroom, much to the delight of principal Helen Atwell-Koo and teachers.
This year, the privately-run institution, located at Orange Grove Road, Trincity, continued its winning ways when student Shemiah Diamond Grant received the second highest score in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination, securing a spot at St Augustine Girls’ High School, her first choice.
Six other students - Rejeanne Carrington; Kerah-Lyn Ramsoobhag; Cyndelle Mings; Tsyan Lucas; Osei Kendell and Kaylan Jacobs -, also did the school proud by placing among the first 200 SEA pupils in the country.
For Atwell-Koo, the students’ outstanding achievements, though heart-warming, are also commonplace at the institution.
During an interview on Wednesday, she told Sunday Newsday that for the past several years, the school’s students have placed consistently among the nation’s top SEA pupils. Last year, she said soca superstar Machel Montano’s daughter, Malaya Moses-Montano, placed fourth overall in the country.
Atwell-Koo credits the high level of performance to the school’s diverse, yet challenging curriculum, as well as its strict adherence to discipline and etiquette.
“We achieve, every year, very well, but academics is not just it,” she said.
“The thing is we don’t want to send out educated criminals out there. We want students who can contribute to the society, not just get a certificate, and then there is a vacuum with everything else.
“We want good citizens. People who know that God exists and that he is watching what we do. So that what we produce here, should be happy, well-educated and well-rounded (students).”
Although the academics are a necessary ingredient for the world of work, Atwell-Koo does not see it as the “be all and end all” of education.
She said, “Education is much more than that. We like to work with everything, the moral and spiritual values. We get a lot of everything - drama, music, sports, dance, chat, you name it. So that everything is important in building Atwell’s Educational Institute.”
Atwell-Koo said the bond formed with students often sees them returning after they have left the institution to assist with various projects and activities.
“No matter where the children go, they still come back. When they have a half day at school, they come back and visit and when we have May Fair, they volunteer to come and work,” she said.
It was Atwell-Koo’s late mother, Eva Atwell, who first touted the idea of establishing an educational institution when she observed the large number of grandchildren she had during one of the her family’s many get-togethers in Tunapuna.
Atwell-Koo recalled, “We have a lot of grandchildren in the family and we have lots of family moments, and when we were having one of those, my Mom said, ‘Look how many grandchildren I have.’ There were like 20-something of them at the time and eight children.”
The suggestion struck a chord with Atwell-Koo and her siblings, who thought it was something they should genuinely consider. At the time, Atwell-Koo said one of her aunts, Irma Lancaster- Atwell, also owned a well-established school in Tunapuna.
Before long, plans were put in place and with the help of Atwell-Koo’s husband and others, a school was born, a two-storey house on 116 Meadow Drive, Orange Grove, Trincity.
“We got it registered, everything was in place,” Atwell-Koo said with pride.
“We advertised a little bit and from what we were doing, people started coming mainly through word of mouth.”
Atwell-Koo recalled that the school began with just nine students: seven Atwell grandchildren and two others.
“It was a happy house,” she said, reflecting on the early years.
Today, Atwell’s Educational Institute, a family establishment, remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence.