Many a Jamaican old boy and old girl will be donning their sneakers this weekend for the 6th annual Coalition of Jamaican Alumni Associations of Florida (CJAAF) Walkathon, set for this Saturday, starting 8 am at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill.
Past students from over 50 Jamaican high schools and colleges will walk four to five miles to raise much-needed funds for their schools. Proceeds will go towards scholarships, building projects, infrastructure renovation, assistance for uniforms and meals, and support for athletes attending sporting events like the Penn Relays or Miami Classic. Most of the funds raised will be from sponsorship donations to walkathon participants.
“We’re expecting between 200 and 250 past students,” says CJAAF co-chair, Dr. Rupert Rhodd. “These events have been exceptionally successful fundraisers for the schools. And they’ve been a great way to come together for some exercise, food, music, fun, and fellowship.”
The event also provides friendly rivalry between the various institutions, allowing for a display of school spirit with many alumni members proudly turning out in their school colors. But apart from fundraising and promoting school spirit, such events remain crucial in maintaining meaningful connections between Jamaica and the Diaspora.
“As with alumni associations in other parts of the globe, Jamaican alumni associations in Florida help to foster an ongoing relationship among graduates, Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, the administrators of several Jamaican schools, and the students currently attending these schools,” says fellow CJAAF co-chair Dr. Sandra Schrouder.
Drs. Rhodd and Schrouder attribute the success of the walkathons to members of the South Florida Jamaican community “who have gone the extra mile.” Special mention was made of the role played by City of Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Barrington Russell, the Grand Marshall of Saturday’s walkathon, as he was for the inaugural walkathon in 2009 held at Lauderdale Lakes’ Vincent Torres Park.
“Mayor Russell and his staff were wonderful hosts at the first event and this certainly set the tone for the other walkathons that followed,” says Dr. Schrouder.
Joining Mayor Russell as Grand Marshall for the 6th Annual Walkathon will be City of Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, Jamaican Consul General to the South East USA, Franz Hall, and the Jamaica Diaspora Representative for the Southern United States, Wayne Golding.
There are over fifty registered Jamaican alumni associations representing high schools and tertiary institutions in Florida. Of the group, over 50 percent of the alumni are over 10 years old, with a combined membership close to 6,000.