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UNITED NATIONS MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS. The Story of Caye Caulker Ocean Academy: A Non-Profit Community High School

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The Story of Caye Caulker Ocean Academy:

A Non-Profit Community High School

Caye Caulker, Belize, Needed a High School: Classes finished on the island at Standard VI (Grade 7/8). Just a few privileged families could finance the daily commute to mainland high schools. Young students had to travel alone and navigate the capital city’s dangerous streets, or leave their families to board on the mainland. Parents were desperate for safe and equitable access to high-school education.

Two Travelers Never Left: Heidi Curry from Texas, and Joni Miller from British Columbia, are two independent travelers who came to Caye Caulker and loved it so much they never left. Inspired by the community’s need for a high school, they decided to help by appealing to the goodwill and generosity of fellow travelers.

Doors Opened in 7 Months: In February of 2008, Heidi and Joni held community meetings, built a school website ( and found partners to create a charity to raise funds for education on the island of Caye Caulker. Backed by the determination of the community, Ocean Academy was accredited by the Ministry of Education. September 2008, Ocean Academy opened it’s doors to students as Caye Caulker’s very first high school.

Co-founder Dane Dingerson donated the land and building. Desi Rosado, a Belizean-American, funded start-up costs. 90% funding continues to come from individual donations and grants.



MDG Goal #1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Target 2: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Ocean Academy coordinates with businesses and professionals to provide on-the-job training to students who have potential to succeed in a particular trade or career choice. Funding for a vocational and technical education annex is one of our dream projects. We would like to offer training to become skilled carpenters, masons, electricians, boat engine repair, chefs etc.

Wedding Photographer: Yvon has a keen interest in photography and owns his own digital camera.  He is being mentored by wedding planners Scotty Poock and Sally Gilham in the art of wedding photography.  He is also learning Photoshop technology skills.  Yvon has photographed four Caye Caulker weddings and received glowing praise for his professionalism and quality photos. 

He uses half of his earnings from each assignment to support his education at Ocean Academy.


Construction and Masonry: Henry, Jaison, Steven and David learned construction skills over the Easter Break.   Construction supervisor Dane Dingerson mentored the students as part of his hired crew to build Ocean Academy's downstairs classroom. The professional builders were impressed with the students' solid work ethic and willingness to learn.

Marine Biologist: Mercedes has a passion for marine biology and conservation.  Mercedes is assisting the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve rangers with their surveys of fish, conch, shrimp and lobster.  She is learning scientific skills such as setting transects, fish identification, collecting and analyzing field data. Mercedes is enrolled in Ocean Academy's scuba diving course and is also President of the Caye Caulker Environmental Club.


MDG #3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Target 1: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

Ocean Academy girls are encouraged to participate in all elective course offerings, even if they are non-traditional gender choices.

Social Studies - During Women’s Month in April, a guest lecturer taught the history of women’s rights throughout the ages. Form I students then conducted oral history interviews for their final assignment:

“Caye Caulker Inspirational Women’s Project.


MDG #5: Improve Maternal Health

Target 2: Achieve universal access to reproductive health care

Science and Life Skills classes address human sexuality and birth control methods. However, teen pregnancy and a lack of reproductive health resources remain big issues on the island of Caye Caulker.

Child nutrition and parenting techniques are not addressed by any agency on the island besides the lone public health nurse.

A Women’s Studies professor from Colorado has submitted a grant proposal for a Women’s Health Centre as an annex to Ocean Academy. We’re hopeful it will be approved.

Form I Social Studies Poster Project


MDG #6: Combat HIV/AIDS

Target 1: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Human sexuality, positive lifestyle choices, and the scientific facts about HIV/AIDS are part of the curriculum for Ocean Academy’s Life Skills and Science Classes.

In February 2009, Ocean Academy students welcomed a performing arts group called WAIT (Washington AIDS International Teens). WAIT used dance to teach about HIV/AIDS and encourage lifelong partnership.

In April 2009, volunteers from the University of Vermont led a short interactive game to demonstrate how quickly viruses can be passed through human contact.


MDG Goal #7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Target 2: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.

Compost Business: One of Ocean Academy’s class businesses is a composting and landfill project. This project is coordinated by Principal Heidi Curry and the students have created a compost box behind the school. They have also purchased chickens, and built a chicken coop, in order to aid the composting process.

CCBTIA Native Plant Identification Project: In June 2009, students Mercedes, David, Lilly and Clifton painted and displayed 30 signs for the local nature reserve, with the names of native plants.


Mangrove Restoration Project

Students accompany biologists from the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve on trips to the northern side of the island, to help plant new mangroves.

Invasive Coconut Removal Project

May 21-22 students went on an educational overnight field trip to snorkel with sharks at the Blue Hole, and camp overnight on Half Moon Caye.  Rangers led narrated nature walks to view the red-footed booby birds, whose littoral forest habitat is threatened by invasive coconuts. We helped the rangers weed invasive coconut saplings.


MDG #8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Target 5: In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

Belize is a young, small country, and educated individuals will make a positive impact on the development of the country and Caye Caulker. Belize gained itsindependence in 1981 and its population is approximately 250,000. Caye Caulkerscientists, lawyers, economists, sociologists, psychologists, doctors, and otherprofessionals will empower a broad representation as development continues. Technology skills are key to this progress.