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CrazyFruits » African/Caribbean/UK/GeneralDiscussions » Charlie Smith dreams big

Charlie Smith dreams big

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1bat Charlie Smith dreams big on Sat 22 Nov 2014 - 1:38

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SCARRED by the impact of violence in surrounding communities over the years, Charlie Smith High school is now gradually heading back to its glory days in football.
Situated on Ninth Street in the tough inner-city community of South St Andrew, Charlie Smith is that ray of hope that often unites warring fractions. When the school's football team is doing well, lives are positively impacted.
The institution, which was built in 1975, then Jones Town Comprehensive and with a student population of approximately 1,200, is currently underpopulated with little over 600 pupils registered.
Over the years, the school has been shunned by a number of parents and students for varying reasons.
The school's name was changed in the 1980s to Charlie Smith in honour of a social worker who served the community well. The 39-year-old institution, with the motto "Effort the key to success", is rich in the tradition of cultural arts, but sport and football in particular -- has been its shining beacon following the success of the football team in the Manning Cup competition.
Charlie Smith, despite losing the Manning Cup final in 1986 to Kingston College (KC), became a household name with the likes of players Christopher 'Belly' Diaz, Desmond 'Gorilla' Davey and Eugene 'Big Head' Williams.
They didn't have to wait long to taste success, and two years after, under the tutelage of coach Oliver Clue, Charlie Smith won the first of their three Manning Cup titles in 1988 with one lethal Byron Earle leading the way.
They subsequently won in 1990 and their winning 1995 outfit is considered one of the best schoolboy teams of all time.
That team comprised Kevin 'Pele' Wilson, who made his senior Jamaican debut at age 17 and scored against Norway in his first game. Also, there were Cornel Chin-Sue, Eugene Barnes, Kwame Richardson and Everton Bunsie, who were other outstanding members of that team. All of these players went on to win the Premier League title with Arnett Gardens in 2001 and 2002.
Charlie Smith's last success came in 2002 when they won their second Walker Cup knockout title.
Principal Garth Gayle, who has been at the helm since May this year, is passionate about taking the school to higher altitudes in both academics and sports.
"We do have many challenges, but one of our bright areas is that we have done exceedingly well in the area of sports, football in particular," Gayle told the Jamaica Observer on a recent visit to the school's campus.
"The community is endowed with a lot of talent and we are seeking to make a union between both academics and sports," he reiterated.
"It's a tall order, but I believe once we set our targets we will achieve success. So we are busily putting programmes in place... strengthening the programmes that we have to deliver on the students' performances," Gayle pointed out.
Gayle, a KC past student who is the honorary general secretary at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), blasts statements that nothing good comes from Charlie Smith.
"I hasten to say that that is not so. Last year we have had two of our students that performed very well in CSEC... both are recipients of eight subjects. So, it is not a fair statement. I would agree that there has been the situations of violence that erupt in the community and that will affect the smooth running of the school. But to date, I must say that has subsided and I am thankful and hoping that we don't go back there," he said.
"We are now building a track and field programme. It's going to be slow but for sure I will use all the best practices... use all the networking to bring about a holistic student that can interact and play their part in nation-building. Charlie Smith has also had students that have done well academically, who continue to play an active role in the development of the country," said Gayle.
"So, yes, the violence in the past may have affected our student population, but we are busily and steadfastly working at it," he noted.
According to Gayle, the school's achievement in reaching the final of the ISSA/LIME Manning Cup for a second time in three years, will now boost the reputation of the institution.
"It enhances it tremendously. The records have already been written; we now seek to go one step further.
"We are a school that is not as beneficial as some of the other schools, but we are thankful for what we have and we do the best with what we have. What we have is abundance of talent, so it is a great feeling to know that a school with less than 700 students can be in the final of such a prestigious competition. We are going to use this as a means of encouraging and motivating our students that they can achieve once they have a purpose and they work assiduously," said Gayle.
"We know that this is going to be a jolt in the right direction for the school. Our population has dwindled and it needs to build as an educational institution seeking to deliver. I want to move Charlie Smith as a school where parents will be happy and willing to send their children, not only because we are known for only sports, but that is one of the avenues."
The principal is even more excited knowing that his institution has made it this far with limited resources, and he is confident that they will bring their all on Saturday when they oppose a tough Jamaica College team that has already copped one title this season.
"It's very thrilling... a fantastic feeling. When the programme started and I was in discussion with the coach (Jerome Waite), there were so many things that needed to be put in place. We have benefited from some of the past students; we also have those who have played before and are champions assisting coach Waite, so there is assistance, but financially we are woefully short," he revealed.
"That is the testimony of believing in oneself, having the ambition and the drive to be there among the top. So while we could speak to so many things that we need, we are going to make good on what we have and that is what we will be doing on Saturday," Gayle went on.
Win or lose, Gayle said he would be happy with what has been achieved to this point.
"Regardless of the results, we will be proud... I am very happy for what they have done so far and where they have reached. We don't have to be awash with a lot of niceties, it is about having a sense of purpose and a common goal, and this for us helps to keep Charlie Smith on the map, not withstanding our challenges," he added.
Meanwhile, coach Jerome Waite told the Observer that this achievement will go down as another milestone in the school's history.
"This is another achievement, because after three years to be back in a final, you know it's not anything that is easy... to be in the last two is an accomplishment. A lot of people look at Charlie Smith as one of those football schools and it is football that really puts them on the map, so it is always a plus for the school coming this far," he said.
Waite added that despite going up against a formidable opponent in Jamaica College, his team will be resolute in overcoming the task ahead.
"It will be an uphill task but I will have to spend a lot more time to prepare them mentally for this game. JC team, as we know, is the number one team, they have won the LIME Super Cup... they are also in the Walker Cup final and this is their third final. So it does mean that they have been doing something good. However, this game will not be a walk over... it will be a tough game from start to finish, but Charlie Smith still have what it takes to win that game," said Waite.

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