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Apr 26, 2018

Stella Maris Marks 60 Years

It stands alone as Belize’s all-purpose center for special education. But sixty years on from its humble beginnings, Stella Maris School still has many struggles and challenges. While it has produced its share of upstanding citizens, the school has much more it would like to do for its current and future enrollment, but it cannot do on the resources provided by the Government of Belize which is the official operator. Like their students, the staff of Stella Maris dream big, as Aaron Humes found on a visit to the compound today.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

They are different, and they will be the first to acknowledge that. But the one hundred and five students of Stella Maris School have the same dreams and want the same opportunities as their fully-abled brothers and sisters. It is a goal the school has been working toward for all of its sixty years of existence, community misunderstanding notwithstanding.

 

Karema Oshon

Karema Oshon, Principal, Stella Maris School

“Here at Stella Maris we try to ensure that our children understand that they are a part of the society, regardless of the disability that they are living with. We ensure that we teach them life skills and the personal social skills to be able to best adapt to our society. The thing is to remove the stigma from the minds of those out there in the society, and that is what we are working toward. And we hope that this medium, along with others, will help us to eliminate that. People living with disabilities, they want your love and attention just like any other persons out there, so we ask that you give it to them and respect them as well.”

 

Vice-Principal Dana Staine gave us a bit of the history of the school and what kids can look forward to during and after their stay.

 

Dana Staine

Dana Staine, Vice-Principal, Stella Maris School

“It was found by Sister Seraphio from the Pallotine Convent, and it came through one specific child that had meningitis, so they were placed at a room at the infirmary on Wilson Street. Thereafter in 1961, they came over to [what is now] Stella Maris School; the building was destroyed by Hurricane Hattie, and then in 1964, the Rotary Club of Belize along with the Government of Belize gave us two buildings that so that we can accommodate more students. The students are being enrolled at the age of four and they stay until the age of seventeen, whereby they go on to a skilled school; who can go to a high school they enroll in high school. Some of the institutions are the Y.W.C.A., the Skills Training Center and recently we have the Gateway [Youth Center.]”

 

In addition to reading, writing, arithmetic and other academic subjects, students are taught home economics, sewing, and even a little agriculture in the form of the REAP program, where they grow the very vegetables they eat for lunch. But as happens when you grow up differently from everybody, you gravitate to those just like you. Teacher for the Post-Primary Division Sheree Salgado explains.

 

Sheree Salgado

Sheree Salgado, Teacher, Stella Maris School

“Stella Maris students are love. So we teach the older students that they should be mentors to the younger ones and also examples. So during break times and other activities you will mostly see the older ones taking care of the younger ones and those who cannot help themselves.  I’m a teacher here for the past eleven years and I think I have grown into the profession. Working with these students on a day-to-day basis, there are different times when students come with different things so sometimes it’s going to be a light day, some days are going to be heavier than others. So you just have to have patience and ensure that you show the students love.  That’s all.”

 

The Head of Department for the Lower Division, Lythia Rhaburn, would like to see the school move out of its urban space and meet its true potential.

 

Lythia Rhaburn

Lythia Rhaburn, Teacher, Stella Maris School

“My dream, because I always have dreams and desires for Stella Maris School, [is] that we relocate; that we get acres and acres of land – free land, of course, from the Government; and we can actually customize our buildings for students to meet their needs. Where we have our censor room, we have the therapy room much bigger; where we have our skills room much bigger, we can have a farm where the children can raise actually animals and grow plants and so forth because we do that already here.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The school’s week of activities closes with a special Family Day on Friday at the school compound.

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