In recognition of the 50th anniversary of its Yamacraw campus, and in celebration of a legacy of ethics and excellence, St Andrew’s International School (SAIS) planted a brazilwood tree purchased from Eleuthera to mark the occasion.
The brazilwood tree was chosen for the ceremony because of its educational tie to Harvard University and that, in 1648, Puritans in Massachusetts learned of fellow brethren that had settled in Eleuthera after being shipwrecked. They gathered funds and supplies and sent them to Eleuthera. In thanks for sending the lifesaving supplies, the Eleutheran brethren sent back 10 tons of brazilwood, which was a source of red dye, and specified that the wood be sold and the funds be given for the benefit of Harvard University. The monies raised from the wood were used to buy adjacent land to Harvard University and to expand the school.
Gordon McKenzie, SAIS principal, said it is their hope that in another 50 years, the brazilwood tree that was planted on Monday, November 29 will provide shade, and a reminder of the occasion for future students.
“As it grows, so will our school community continue to grow with ethics and excellence,” said McKenzie.
“We are grateful to mark the anniversary of our Yamacraw campus with alumni and faculty who recall when this campus began. Although it is now 50 years old, some things remain central to our school ethos then and today – the sense of school community. Students feel that they are not only a part of the school but help to shape it for today and future generations.”
Loretta Butler-Turner, an alumna of St Andrew’s School, recalled during her fifth-grade year, that every student participated in fundraising.
“I remember a major walk-a-thon from the Shirley Street campus all the way to the Yamacraw campus and everyone being so excited to see the campus although it was still under construction,” said Butler-Turner.
Athena Damianos-Mabon recalls raising funds, and students helping to clear the field.
“Back then, when we first moved to the new campus, the field was nothing but rock and rubble. Students were asked to help rid the field of the rocks and we all did so happily. PE [physical education] was moving the rocks off of the field, so we could make it smooth. Every time I see the green field that is there today, I recall that time.”
Butler-Turner also recalls clearing rocks from the field, “I think we students realized that it was important and that we were all a part of this development and that the school had to be very economical in the way it was using its resources and we were a part of the human resource. We were a part of the labor force and have sweat equity in addition to having raised funds in the school. Those were exciting times, we were energetic, and it felt like an adventure.”
SAIS began with the enrollment of 24 students in the basement of the historic St Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in 1948. The school was founded by a group of parents who wanted their children prepared for admission into private boarding schools in Britain by the age of 13. At the time, the subjects taught in local primary school did not include those necessary for entry into private British schools, according to the school’s website. Candidates for entrance were required to sit examinations in Latin and/or Greek, French, algebra, geometry, history and geography, in addition to the usual papers in English, arithmetic, and religious knowledge.
Its first headmaster was Reverend J.H. Poole, the minister then in charge of St Andrews Presbyterian Kirk. For the next two years, the students were accommodated in the Kirk Hall, and the name St Andrew’s was permanently adopted.
By 1950, the number of students had increased to 70 and the Kirk Hall was no longer an adequate location for the school.
In that same year, a group of parents negotiated the purchase of the Collins property that borders Shirley Street and Collins Avenue. For 15 years, the Collins mansion provided extensive quarters, and enabled the school to grow to 160 students by 1954.
According to the SAIS website, as St Andrew’s School enlarged, so did the number of parents who wished for their children to complete their secondary education either in North America or the United Kingdom. To meet those needs, it was decided that a new campus was necessary. The existing school property at Yamacraw was acquired and fundraising ensued, championed by students, teachers, parents and the energetic and then-headmaster, John Chaplin. In early 1970, ground was broken and in November 1971, the school moved to the Yamacraw campus.
At its peak, SAIS accommodated 850 students.
The building of a new school on a large campus with new amenities was exciting for the students and many recall the move to their new campus fondly. They also take great pride in having been a part of it becoming a reality. Before the new school was built, each student was asked to contribute $30 for the building campaign. Students collected bottles for recycling to raise funds, hosted bake sales, made products and the school held a fair to raise funds.
Trees were planted to help beautify the Yamacraw campus, and to ultimately provide shade – and 50 years later, the school is lush with mature trees. In keeping with the tree-planting tradition of the past half century, the brazilwood tree was planted to mark the 50th anniversary.
The look of the new school, campus and the addition of science labs and a swimming pool were a great sense of pride to the students that moved in 1971, and remain to this day, according to school officials and alumni.
“I remember how big it all felt and we had even more space … everything was new,” said Damianos Mabon. “But what I remember most is how much we all felt a part of making this new school happen. We were all working together and took great pride in our school because we helped raise funds to build it,” she said.
St Andrew’s International School’s vision is building a diverse community of lifelong learners to be a force for positive change through ethics and excellence.
Student leaders, head boy Jake Oldfield, head girl Julia Fernander-Francis, deputy head boy Aaryn Russell and deputy head girl Brianna Wong were the masters of the recent tree planting ceremony. The St Andrew’s Chamber Choir performed a musical selection. Alumni, teachers, student leaders, members of the school’s board and friends gathered to celebrate the milestone anniversary.