Port Antonio on high

PORT Antonio High School swept the Schools Environment Programme (SEP) awards yesterday, copping prizes for the Most Environmentally Aware School, Champion Environment Teacher, Youth Environmental Leadership (Under-16), and sharing the Champion Senior School 2012/13 title with Westwood High in Trelawny.

The champion teacher was Heavon Brown, while the youth leadership awardee was Tsuneo Davis.

Members of the winning SEP school for 2012/2013 Port Antonio High show of their awards at the Knutsford Court Hotel yesterday. They are joined by marketing manager of CIBC FirstCaribbean Renee Whitehorne (third right) and champion environment teacher Heavon Brown (partially hidden). (PHOTO: LENOX QUALLO)

Port Antonio is one of 30 schools in the SEP project, 16 of which were judged on greening, environmental research, strengthening of school environmental clubs, and waste management for yesterday’s awards. Mount St Joseph Prep in Mandeville won in the Champion Junior School category.

The SEP awards were part of the Jamaica Environment Action Awards (JEAA) hosted by the Diana McCaulay-headed Jamaica Environment Trust at the Knutsford Court Hotel.

The JEAA winners in the respective categories were Roots Underground’s Releaf project (Trees for the Future); Jamaica Broilers Group for its solar powering of contractor chicken farms (Energy Conservation); Ewarton Community Development Action Committee for its rainwater harvesting and watershed management (Best Environmental Community and Water Conservation); Jamaica Iguana Recovery Group for its iguana conservation project (Biodiversity); Christopher Michael Rose (Youth Leadership, Under-25); Woodford Market Garden for organic farming (Sustainable Agriculture); and Jamaica Social Investment Foundation (Waste Management).

Telecoms giant Digicel got a special mention in the energy conservation category for the eco-friendly elements of its headquarters in downtown Kingston.

JET’s programme director Suzanne Stanley told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the judges were impressed with the range of persons who were vying for the same awards — from individuals, community groups, NGOs, private sector entities — and with the scope and diversity of the projects.

“It’s been really good,” she said.

“In terms of SEP we were really impressed with their greening exercises this year. In general, there was improvement over last year and we found that the teachers who have been involved for a long time just keep going and keep motivating the students. The students themselves are good, of course, but the teachers just keep pushing and getting the best out of them,” she added.

With regard to Port Antonio’s success, Stanley said some of the qualities which gave the Portland institution the edge were its record-keeping skills and the knowledge of the students.

“Some of the schools know how to enter competitions… The students are good at record keeping, are consistently well-spoken, and they know their stuff. You go to the school and ask them a question and they can answer at the tip of their tongue without looking at the teacher or searching their faces for an answer,” she said.

She also pointed to the high level of enthusiasm about things environmental among the students.

As for Westwood, which tied with Port Antonio for the Senior Champion School prize, Stanley said the judges were also impressed with their level of research.

“They impress us every year. The girls are so well-spoken and their research impressed us.

The JEAA honours outstanding groups and individuals who have demonstrated innovative efforts aimed at protecting and preserving Jamaica’s natural environment.