An Academic Celebration
Written by Elias Awe
The greatest news in Cayo in 1960 was the founding of Sacred Heart College, the first secondary school in the district. It was a community celebration and indeed the talk of the town for a long time.
The Origin of this institution was very humble but it was built on a solid foundation and years after, boasts of a unique and extraordinary history of academic progress and institutional development.
The college was born of a dire need as our blossoming students from the primary school system in our towns and villages longed for further education. Before 1960, students were being deprived of secondary education, as going to high school in Belize City was not economically feasible for most parents.
Sacred Heart College originated as the brainchild of the late Bishop Robert Hodapp, who wanted our young boys and girls to have access to an affordable, yet rounded secondary education. Through the Bishop's initiative, Fr. Martin Avila visited the USA to recruit teachers for the proposed college. Among those who responded to this call was a young Papal volunteer by the name of Harry Martin who took up the rein as Principal and begun charting the way for the now outstanding institution. At the time, Fr. Castillo, now deceased, was instrumental in the formation of the college. These men of the “cloth” did not labor in vain, for Sacred Heart College is the best legacy bequeathed by the Roman Catholic Church to an appreciative community in Western Belize.
On July 1, 1960, the College opened its doors for the first time at a building owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jorge Espat, located in the building where Courts stands today. The college remained there for one semester and was then moved to a space under the famous Stork Club owned by the Escandar Bedran Sr. Family. As remarked by one of our former pastors, “this must have been the only college in the world housed next to a bar.”
In 1961, through the efforts of Area Representatives, Hector David Silva for Cayo North and Santiago Perdomo for Cayo South, they lobbied Wahib Habet who provided all the materials from the San Luis Sawmill Co. for two wooden buildings constructed on the hill near the Sacred Heart Church. The College began the new school year in July 1962 in its new home housed in these two new buildings. Subsequent to that, another building was constructed at this site as the student population began to increase.
It was not until 1972, through the initiative of Fr. Osmond Peter Martin (now Bishop), that seven acres of land that was acquired from the Government of Belize to construct what is today the permanent home of Sacred Heart College. The College campus was extended by another five-acre block in June 1990.
An important element introduced in the administration of Sacred Heart College, was the initiative taken by Bishop Osmond Peter Martin in 1985 to establish a Board of Governors for the College. The responsibility of the Board is to set policy, provide direction and to assist in the overall development of the institution. Previously, the Pastor was responsible for the general administration of the high school. The College has been fortunate in having Board members that over the years have shown commitment, concern and dedication in the development and enhancement of the High School.
Over the years, Sacred Heart College has made its positive mark on all facets of the country's development with graduates from this institution holding key positions in the private and public sectors. Today, SHC continues to serve as a catalyst for growth and development in our community and Belize. There are 2,830 high school graduates for the period 1960-2003. Interestingly, in 1985, on the 25 th Anniversary of Sacred Heart College, there were 1,349 graduates. Eighteen years later, we've recorded a 48% increase in graduates emerging from this fine institution.
Currently, the College administers a secondary school of 660 students with some 43 teachers, and just recently, a Junior College of 360 students and 12 full time lecturers.
The Junior College opened in September 1999 and has produced three cohorts (in 2001, 2002 and 2003) totaling 134 graduates.
Today, we wish to congratulate all past and present students; we acknowledge and thank past Board Members, principals, and alumni for helping in building and forming the strong and progressive institution which is Sacred Heart College.