Posted November 8, 2007

Jamaican students pay visit to Temple

Students from the St. James High School in Montego Bay used a recent visit to Philadelphia to see what college is all about.

When they stepped onto Temple University’s Main Campus, the students from St. James High School in Montego Bay, Jamaica, got the chance to see many novel things.

Many of the students marveled at the size of campus. Others took in the size of the city of Philadelphia itself.

But there was only one building that interested 13-year-old Peta-Gay Leslie, and that building held her attention because of the more than 2 million books it holds.

“I liked the library,” she said after touring campus. “I love to read.”

Peta-Gay was one of eight students and two teachers who made the trip from Montego Bay to the United States as part of a visit arranged by the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, an organization of Jamaican expatriates who are using their various talents to help improve the education, health and general welfare of the citizens in their home country.

Jaimaican students visit Temple University
Photo courtesy of Dennis Hinkson
Professor Trevor Sewell is joined by a group of students from Montego Bay, Jamaica's St. James High School in his

office in Temple's College of Education. Sewell, who is also the education director for the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation,

helped bring the students to the United States as part of the foundation's work of improving Jamaica's educational

system. In addition to getting a tour of Temple, the students visited Philadelphia's historic sites, New York

City and Trenton, N.J. as part of their trip.

The students, members of St. James’ choir, were here as part of a trip financed by the foundation’s Education Sector, said Trevor Sewell, co-chair of the Education Sector and former dean of Temple University’s College of Education.

The idea behind the trip, and the foundation itself, is to improve students’ performance and thus contribute to Jamaica’s educational reform efforts, Sewell said.

“We want to transform the schools and promote academic excellence,” he said. “Bringing students [to America] gives them a psychological boost.”

The trip was financed through the fundraising efforts of Jamaican Diaspora members, and the students stayed with host families, Sewell said. In addition to coming to Philadelphia, the students visited New York City and New Jersey.

A goal of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation is to make this trip the first of many, said Donahue Bailey, a member of the foundation’s Northeastern Advisory Board and a Pennsylvania state representative. The group hopes to bring students from Jamaica here on an annual basis, as well as to have students from a school in the United States visit Jamaica as the country’s guests, he said.

The students, who were between 13 and 17, took a tour of campus and visited with College of Education Dean Kent McGuire. They also went to lunch in Louis J. Esposito Dining Court in the Johnson–Hardwick complex, something that fascinated 16-year-old Jody-Kay Townsend.

“I liked the cafeteria,” she said. “You get to choose whatever you want to eat.”

But while discovering the cafeteria, the library, and Temple’s expansive campus was a good experience for the students, Jody-Kay was one of four students on the trip for whom college was on the horizon. In Jamaica, you can begin post-secondary studies at 17, Sewell said.

Thanks to their visit, some of the students were taking a serious look at Temple as a possible collegiate home.