Bates Memorial School celebrates Light and Truth

Bates Memorial High School Honour Society.  -
Bates Memorial High School Honour Society. -

WHEN award-winning spoken-word poet Derron Sandy worked as a teacher at Bates Memorial High School, he encouraged students to get involved in the arts.

On December 3 he will be lending his talents to Bates Memorial for yet another time as host of the fundraising Christmas concert, The Gift of Light and Truth, which is part of the school's 75th-anniversary celebrations.

Sandy, who worked as a teacher at the Sangre Grande school from 2011-2013, told Newsday in a text message that he always likes to give back to the school.

"So, when I can and I'm available I always make the effort to contribute to the development of the students by using the arts.

"And it's a great opportunity to host the concert and just give them that kind of forward. Pull the event together."

The concert is being held at the Guaico Secondary School Auditorium and the special guest artists are musician Bj'orn Pierre, Tobagonian gospel singer Blessed Messenger and gospel band MRC (Michael Ron Christopher) & Chosen Generation.

Principal Jacqueline Jones told Newsday in a phone interview the guest artists are popular in the gospel arena and are great performers. She said there are also other excellent performers, including Luenda Moore, University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) graduate, pannist Cadiann Caraballo, USC University Choir and Orchestra member Jael-Marie Jones-Blackman (violinist) and her brother Zemariah Jones-Blackman (cellist), and the Bates Memorial Alumni Choir.

The choir was assembled for the 75th anniversary Thanksgiving Service held on September 9, at Sangre Grande SDA Church, entitled Inspired by God, Fuelled by Faith. Jones said the choir has been practising every Friday evening for Sunday's concert, the title of which is inspired by the school's motto, Light and Truth.

Bates Memorial High School principal Jacqueline Jones. -

School journey

Jones, who has been principal since May 16, said when she took up the position, one of her plans was to celebrate the school's 75th anniversary.

"Build on the legacy. It has been around for so long and gone through all the trials and tribulations of moving and back and forth, but survived."

The school began in 1948, when the Sangre Grande Seventh Day Adventist Church realised that it needed a school for its children. It was built at the back of the church and began as an intermediate school catering to both primary and secondary students. It officially became a high school in 1951.

The school, in its early years, moved from one rented building to another, from Tranquillity Hall to Brotherhood Lodge, to Ojoe Road and River Street, to Court Hasan on Foster Road, just before the civic centre.

The primary school eventually moved to its present and original location on Adventist Street, neighbouring the Sangre Grande Seventh Day Adventist Church, opposite the hospital. The school long faced issues of fluctuating enrolment and at one point there were talks about closing it down.

Jones attended Bates from form one-five, though it was not her choice. She explained she had passed for Sangre Grande Junior Secondary and when faced with the option of either repeating the Common Entrance exam or going to Bates, her mother chose the latter.

"I went to Bates grudgingly."

But years after she left and was in the workplace several people would ask what "prestige school" she had attended. It was then she realised how much she had benefited from her time at Bates and the SDA education she received.

"It’s a Seventh-Day Adventist school, and you have a particular philosophy of education where excellence is demanded of you."

She recalled during her time there were students in form one who had not passed Common Entrance, but at Bates, they passed their exams.

"Bates served the community and has given many persons an opportunity at an education."

Jones explained with an SDA education everyone has an opportunity to learn in a Christian environment about the "head, hand and heart.

"It is not just academics but values. They are being educated to be an excellent employee and contributor to where they are as an individual. We are also preparing them to be an excellent citizen of heaven. That is the foundation of Adventist philosophy."

She said the schooling is about building character, and as she became older she appreciated that more.

The school has produced several notable alumni, including transport pilot Brendon Browne, manager of financial services for the Georgia Department of Correction Brenda Browne, dietician Dr Patricia Dyett, head chef at President’s House Sgt Brian Charles, former basketballer Julius Ashby, geographic information systems specialist Samuel Springer and singer/songwriter Loucretia Horrell.

The legacy

Jones, who had worked at Mayaro Secondary for more than 21 years, learned the principal of Bates had retired and decided to apply.

"I (decided) I can give back to Bates."

She described being principal for the past few months as a "great experience" and said students now have the chance to do activities which she did not, such as music, art and athletics. She said the school has been doing very well in athletics and academics, with a very high pass rate.

"We are still inspired by God, fuelled by faith, and our students do extremely well."

Jones said Bates does not just cater for students in Sangre Grande, but the entire North Eastern Education District and some of the South Eastern Education District, with students coming from as far as Guayaguayare and Sans Souci.

Bates Memorial High School at Adventist Street, Sangre Grande. -

She added, however, that the constant moving hurt the school, and the population has dropped from 300 in the 1990s to its current 134.

"We have been rebranding and doing everything to get Bates back to its 'glory days.'"

Jones said the 75th anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate and remind people what Bates stands for. The concert and other events for next year, including a sports/family day and a dinner, were to help raise funds for the school.

"Bates really needs to expand and have more space for our growing population."

She said it would love to buy a building next door and have an outdoor space for extracurricular and co-curricular activities.

"All funds from the anniversary (events) will be going towards that."

For this Sunday's concert, she said there will be door prizes, a 360-degree video booth, refreshments on sale, and great entertainment.

"You can’t beat the quality of entertainment you are going to get."

Tickets are $150 for general admission and $75 for children under 12 and Bates students.

For those who would like to donate directly to the school's building fund donations can be made to RBC account no 100004010126048.

For more info contact the school at 662-3128.


"Bates Memorial School celebrates Light and Truth"

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