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House Speaker issues challenge at SJCPOS alumni induction ceremony

SJCPOS Hall of Excellence inductees, from left: Gary De Freitas (for Sr Jean Devenish Huggins SJC), Allyson Hamel-Smith, Angela Hamel-Smith, Jocelyn Monica Pierre, Kathleen Gittens (for her sister Margaret Gittens) and Sr Annetta Juliana Alexander SJC. Photo: Maria Nunes

Six outstanding alumni of St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain were inducted into the school’s Hall of Excellence in a ceremony which took place at the Convent chapel, November 8. The event’s theme was Women Let your voices be heard. The new inductees all had in common a record of selfless service.

They were: Child Psychologist Allyson Hamel-Smith; Foundation for Human Development Chairperson Angela Hamel-Smith; former music teacher Jocelyn Monica Pierre; and educator Sr Annetta Juliana Alexander SJC. Posthumously inducted were former legal secretary Margaret Gittens and former principal Sr Jean Devenish Huggins SJC.

President of the St Joseph’s Convent Port of Spain Past Pupil’s Association (SJCPOSPPA), Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing told the gathering that the legacy of service of those inducted into the Hall of Excellence will “forever guide within these sacred walls”. She announced the association’s plans for cultivating ‘Convent Pride’, as November has been declared ‘Convent Pride Month’.

There will be competitions held to engage the students on what ‘Convent Pride’ means to them and letting their voices be heard. Lezama-Lee Sing also announced the launch of the alumni issue of the Convent Chronicle newsletter.

In the feature address, Speaker of the House of Representatives Bridgid Annisette-George used the opportunity to speak extensively on the rights of women and the progress that has been made in Trinidad and Tobago and the world.

While congratulating her alma mater on the role it has played in producing female leaders and pioneers, she however said there is still a lot of work to be done for women to be treated as equals. Annisette-George said there has been many ‘firsts’ for women of Trinidad and Tobago who have indeed achieved much and the 2017 CSEC and CAPE results “blatantly” demonstrated the achievement of girls in education.

Annisette-George commented “all that glitters is not gold” as women have not fully achieved egalitarian status in this country despite their service and achievements. Using numerous examples from newspaper articles she illustrated the problems in how women are treated in this country.

Annisette-George called for a repositioning of the focus of non-governmental organisations and other bodies to address “ingrained prejudice against women” by providing training for women, and through women raising their voices. She urged, “Until all inherent structures are rid of biases and all policies viewed with gender-sensitive lens, we must continue to issue the call. Women, let your voices be heard.”

The awardees received the blessing of Archbishop Joseph Harris after he presented each with their plaque and they were serenaded by the St Joseph’s Convent choir. The induction ceremony, which has been held biennially since 2001, was also attended by Minister of Education Anthony Garcia and members of the Cluny Board of Directors.

In giving the vote of thanks, Allyson Smart-Cooper, the association’s Second Vice President, described Anisette-George’s address as “so very relevant”. The ceremony was followed by a viewing of the Hall of Excellence. – EH