Mitchell Town Primary gets multimillion-dollar upgrade from New Fortress Energy

While Jamaica continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in all schools being closed, New Fortress Energy (NFE), founded by American businessman and philanthropist Wes Edens, funded a robust school refurbishment project in Clarendon that will touch the hearts and well-being of Jamaica’s youth in the deep rural community of Mitchell Town for years to come.

The energy company, through its foundation, undertook a $11.3-million refurbishment project to restore the sixty-plus-year-old Mitchell Town Primary School, in collaboration with the board of directors and management of the school, the principal and the community.

Since the 1940s, Mitchell Town Primary School has been the only primary school directly serving the bauxite community of Clarendon.

Over the years, the school’s physical structure has become dilapidated and in need of repairs to ensure it is a safe, secure and conducive place for learning and development.

Despite a lack of resources, the school’s principal, teachers and board have focused efforts on providing the best possible education to ensure that the student body of more than 200 students had an opportunity to secure a brighter future for themselves and their families.

After becoming aware of the need for facility repairs, the NFE Foundation stepped in with a commitment to fund the project in order to support education and the community’s development and empowerment.

The renovation project included reconstructing and installing entirely new classrooms and offices, including replacing badly cracked walls, leaking or missing roofs and windows.

The foundation also upgraded sanitation throughout the school by installing new male and female bathrooms outfitted with new fixtures. Additionally, the project involved the construction of a new concrete tuck shop to replace the old wooden structure the school had before.

The students will also benefit from an entirely new surface for the assembly area and playground, new perimeter fencing and gate and improved landscaping throughout the school complex.

After seeing the newly-refurbished school, Gloria Kennedy, head of the school’s board of directors, was overcome by emotion.

“This school holds so much history in Mitchell Town, and I have no doubt that it will not only lift the spirit of the students and teachers, but also for the wider community. We cannot thank New Fortress Energy enough for restoring hope in our community and in the lives of our children,” said Kennedy.

It was a similar sentiment from Florizel Thompson, chairman of the Port Community Council in Mitchell Town.

“As a native of the community, who attended this school more than 40 years ago, I am overjoyed to see the school returned to being the beacon it once was in the community. This is indeed a historic moment for us thanks to NFE Foundation,” said Thompson.

Newly-appointed principal of the school, Mario Palmer, said: “The type of environment in which a child learns has a lot to do with how he or she learns, so I feel a great sense of pride when I see the school now compared to how it was before. I am confident that students will be even more motivated to call Mitchell Town Primary their school and that this is now a space where they can comfortably learn, grow and flourish.”

In the meantime, Verona Carter, vice-president of public affairs at NFE, said: “Helping communities thrive is embedded in our DNA. Our chairman and founder, Wes Edens, believes strongly that education is the engine that drives economies and sustainable growth. So, this project is near and dear to us. The needs were so great, yet the school has remained so resolute with instilling the value of having a good education in their students.”

Carter added: “There is no doubt that education directly impacts GDP, and so we believe that every child deserves access to a school environment that is conducive to learning so that they can truly shine and reach their fullest potential.

“This is what this project is really about, we’ve always said we want to leave the communities in which we operate better than how we found them and this is a true testament to that. We can’t wait to see the students’ excitement in September when they return to this gift of a literally brand-new school that will serve them for generations to come.”

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