JUNE 12, 2014

A Very Good Morning to you all!

This is my first visit to the Sydney Pagon Agricultural High School and unfortunately, it will be my last.  As our Chairman and Member of Parliament just mentioned, your school will have a new name in a few months.

In another few months, this school will have a new name and a new personality, for that I say congrats! You will be one of the first STEM Academies in Jamaica.  You will be pioneers of the new approach to education as we prepare our youth to take advantage of the numerous opportunities being fashioned by the revolution in science and technology.

The next time I visit, this institution will be called… Say it with me, please: The Sydney Pagon STEM Academy!

I am pleased to be here with you this morning, at the start of my day in St. Elizabeth. Each year I try to visit as many parishes as possible to meet with the people and I always insist that a school should be the first stop on these tours.

In that way, I begin with a group of Jamaicans on whom I place a premium.  As I look around this hall, I see the future of our country, all these bright young people who will lead us to the fulfilment of our Vision for Jamaica: to be the place of choice in which to live, work, raise families and do business. That is our vision for Jamaica and it is a good vision.

Perhaps I am looking at a future Governor-General, Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps I am seeing the first Jamaican winner of the Nobel Prize in Science and that person may emerge from the STEM Academy because of a life changing invention which resulted from your research.

So my young people, I dream of great achievements for you, because I believe in you. Someone believed in me when I was growing up in rural Jamaica, someone helped me to see beyond the trees and hills of my beautiful parish. And so, I want you to dare to dream big for yourselves! I want you to study hard and prepare yourselves to accomplish your dreams.

It is also good to see: Principals, staff and students of SPAHS, as well as the teachers and students from other schools who are here this morning:

  • Brae’s River Primary School
  • Bogue Primary School
  • Elim Basic School,
  • Glen Stewart Primary School
  • Balaclava High School,
  • Maggoty High School

This is a great parish, well-known for:

  • YS Falls, Lovers’ Leap, the famous Bamboo Avenue and the Black River,
  • the development of eco-tourism, and
  • peppered shrimps and the best fish and bammy in the island. I can only attest to the fish and bammy.

St. Elizabeth produces much of the food which is grown in our country. Many of your parents are farmers and perhaps many of you plan to become great farmers using all the modern technology to secure a rich harvest for Jamaica.

St. Elizabeth’s farmers play a very important part in the Jamaica Agricultural Society’s “Eat what you grow…Grow what you eat” Campaign. That is why when I leave here, I’m going directly to the RADA Agricultural Exposition.

We applaud all those who ‘caught the vision’ of the importance of training in agriculture and gave birth in 1979 to the Elim Agricultural School.  Among those was the late long-serving Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth, Mr. Sydney Pagon. And It is a fitting tribute that the school was renamed in his honour in 2002. Mr. Pagon’s exemplary contribution to this parish will always be remembered because of this school.

One of the elements of this school which I find appealing is its central philosophy, maintained since 1979.  Creatively using the letters in the former name of the school, the Principals and teachers over the years remind students that ELIM stands for: Excellence, Love, Industry and Morality, and these are all critical aspects of their development.

This applies to all students everywhere in Jamaica.

As you look ahead to September when this school will become the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy, I want to commend:

  • the leadership of the SPAHS,
  • the Ministry of Education, and
  • the community
  • for embracing this bold step.

You are acting wisely to ensure that our young people are better prepared for the jobs of the future under the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative. These fields of study help our youth to:

  • think strategically, and
  • to act on research-based evidence.

They are not an option. This is an exciting time to be a student in this parish and I urge all of you to make the very best use of the opportunity to excel in the new STEM Academy.

I encourage the Principal and teachers to ensure that students graduate with the potential for employment opportunities in the Global Logistics Hub. Students, I want to share a few thoughts with you on how to achieve excellence:

Do not be concerned about your humble background. Many successful persons had humble backgrounds. Do not let where you live, your parents’ occupation, or the fact that they are poor become a huge wall blocking your progress.  Remember the personal and unselfish sacrifices your family is making to ensure that they provide for you in the best way they can.  Show them your appreciation by studying hard and making the best use of every opportunity to improve yourself.  Keep your dream alive by working towards achieving it! Dare to be different!

Be creative.  Use and build on the talent which God gave you. When you grow up, that could well become your new business which will end up employing a lot of people.

Develop a spirit of volunteerism.  We are all called to be our brother’s keeper.  You are not too young to help those who are in need, or to be a mentor to your peers.  This will also make you a stronger, better person and you will be among those who will help Jamaica to “under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”.

Above all be patriotic!  Love your country. This is a wonderful country with which God has blessed us! We must try to make Jamaica as great as we should be. Be the example to your peers in showing respect to our National Anthem and our National Pledge and remember that whatever our differences, we are One People!  Other countries believe in Jamaica! We must believe in ourselves!


I want you to believe with me that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica! You are part of what is right with Jamaica!

To all of you who have come here today and who have participated in this warm experience, I thank you and will always cherish this moment.

Students, as you prepare for the rest of your life, remember that “You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.” I urge you to remove the walls, dare to stand always for what is right, dare to be wise, dare to be creative, dare to succeed!

May God bless you all! God bless Jamaica.

Thank you.