Monday, February 18, 2013

Digicel funds $28 million building for Step Centre

Samantha Chantrelle, Digicel Foundation’s Executive Director (left) and Kerry-Jo Lyn, Programmes Manager, have a chat with STEP student Brandon Thompson. Occasion was the groundbreaking ceremony last March for the School for Therapy, Education and Parenting of Children with Multiple Disabilities’ (STEP’s) new centre, which will be located on Tremaine Road. The Digicel Foundation has committed $28 million to construct the centre.
Career & Education writer
JAMAICA OBSERVER | Sunday, February 17, 2013
FOR the last 12 years, Hillary Sherlock, principal of The School for Therapy, Education and Parenting (Step) Centre, has been yearning for a school building she and her special-needs students could call their own.
Now, come September, she will be cutting the ribbon which will signal the opening of her own school building, located off Tremaine Road in Kingston.
It was in sharing her great need with others over the years that Sherlock's story touched members of Digicel Foundation, who last year set aside $28 million to build The Step Centre a new school.
The Step Centre is a special-needs institution which caters to students who have complex learning and developmental challenges such as cerebral palsy, global development delay and other syndromes. Since the start of the school in February 1992, they have been operating in the church hall of St Margaret's Church located in Liguanea.
According to Sherlock, who currently oversees the operations of a teacher, seven teaching assistants, a part-time speech therapist and a part-time physiotherapist, the school had long outgrown the church's hall before they were recognised as an independent school by the Ministry of Education and received the first subvention from the Government in 2000.
"I've been here for 12 years. We outgrew these premises years ago, but we are grateful for the church community which has allowed us to stay," Sherlock told Career & Education.
After the lot along Tremaine Road was identified, Digicel Foundation assisted with the paperwork while architect Douglas Stiebel offered his services by designing a new building for the institution.
Sherlock said she is extremely grateful.
"I feel wonderful," she said.
In addition to the new building for the school, the school will have one of Kingston's most interactive, user-friendly, educational playgrounds and garden centres which was designed by nine fourth-year architecture students from the University of Technology. Joana Sadler, Claudia Hesson, Jamar Rock, Nieco Marks, Stein Carrington, Owayne Hamilton, Sana Williams, Nathalie Ash, and Chinelle Joseph worked under the supervision of their Introduction to Landscape Architecture lecturer Mark Martin.
The students explained that the facility will engage the five senses, and will have a two-wheelchair carousel, strapped bed swings, an interactive floor which resembles a piano that will make sounds when touched, a train that holds wheelchairs, a short tunnel, an interactive game wall, and a plant and herbs garden.
"One of the goals that we all decided as a class was that we didn't want this to look like a playground for disabled children, it was going to be the playground," Martin said.
"The level of movement for many students is extremely limited and we had to find ways of creating positive educational stimuli. Apart from the five senses, we added vestibular (balance) and spatial orientation, and proprioceptive [receptors] which detect the motion of body and limbs."
Meanwhile, Samatha Chantrelle, executive director of the Digicel Foundation, said it is emotional projects like these that her foundation takes pride in sponsoring.
"We believe that every child has a right to a good education and special needs education is an area that we are committed to bringing to the forefront of the public's mind," Chantrelle stated.
She added: "The Step Centre is very close to our hearts, as it is the first special-needs school Digicel Foundation has fully funded."

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