Etched in the mental archives are the morning assemblies conducted by retired Arima Government Secondary School principal, Jean Warner. She ensured the National Anthem and a slew of patriotic songs were sung perfectly. On Monday, a special assembly commemorating 50 years took place at the school compound-renamed Arima Central Secondary School (ACSS). Its theme was Finest Nation Builders. The academic institution first opened its doors on May 9, 1961, at Marie Street, Arima. On a glorious Monday morning, the assembly, which would remain registered in their minds was not conducted by Warner. Instead, outstanding ACSS graduates took the students through the paces. Among the highlights were motivational words, the unveiling of a time capsule and planting of the Chaconia-the nation's national flower. Clad in their cream and brown uniforms, students lined the courtyard or espied the assembly from the top floors. They were also addressed by school principal, Dr Claudette Ali and acting vice principal, Nela Balkissoon.
Dr Ali paid kudos to the staff who had made Arima Government Secondary "the premier institution academically in the North Eastern educational district." Ali said: "I hope under the new leadership the ACSS will continue to grow and impact positively upon the global society. It has reached a milestone-a half century of existence." Ali also gave an extensive history of the school. Balkissoon added: "ACSS is celebrating 50 years of the finest nation-building graduates. We have many graduates in foreign countries who have done extremely well and are very proud to be graduates of this school. She added: "We have been hearing about our distinguished graduates but when we look around, the working force of the nation comprises many graduates as teachers like St Hill, Lalman, Steele, Perry-Francis and Lewis." Balkissoon challenged the graduates to keep the historic event alive-by striving to be the finest nation builders. She said: "We must keep the tradition alive. To do this you must have a change in attitude and behaviour to realise your true potential. Everyone has the capacity to excel. Let us continue to make ACSS the number one school in east Trinidad."
50th anniversary assembly
Conducting the 50th anniversary celebrations were past students Mary St Hill and Norbert Steele. Looking on at the proceedings were teachers including Ramlochan, Johnson and Peter Caesar. Past students like Trevor Burnett, Ann Marie Williams, a teacher at Talparo RC School, were also present.
Prayers were said by Raka Lalman, Shane Sudama and Makala Rambarack. Joseph Lewis presented awards to the dancers. Form Four students performed a musical item World's Greatest. As the time capsule was prepared, past student Amanda Williams sang. School archives, including a supplement, were stuck in it. Past student, Ashton Forde, a former mayor of Arima, had prepared a newspaper supplement. A lusty round of applause followed. After the formalities, everyone moved to the front for the symbolic tree planting ceremony. Dwarfed by the national and school flags, past students Charles Wren and Angela Pierre put the sapling in the earth.
In keeping with the theme finest nation builders, Chief of Defence Force Roland Maundy, said: "I am proud to have attended a good school. They have produced fantastic students. We are proud of the students. We have some of the finest nation builders. There is no prestige school like the ACSS."
He said if he was perceived as "rough and tough" blame it on Warner. Maraj, an accountant by profession, added: "When I saw some of the faces I haven't seen over 38 years, I hugged and cried. You are in the number 1 prestige school in this country." Offering a kernel of wisdom, Maraj said: "A teacher always likes a good student." For 20 years, Caesar taught Accounts at the institution. He said: "As you get older, you are getting better. Wherever I am in the world, I keep hearing good things about ACSS. When I compare other schools to Arima, I see how we stand out. We stood our ground and represented the cream of Arima. And, we are still doing it. We are the nation's finest builders."