Once 6th grade became a reality in 2006, a group of parents and faculty approached the School’s President, Fr Edner Mars, with the request that the school be expanded to include 7th grade in 2006-7, and one additional grade level in each subsequent year.
This was an ambitious and daring proposal, since Sassier is in a remote rural location. After much prayer and discussion, College Pierre Toussaint opened its doors to 55 7th grade students in September 2006. The College has grown rapidly, with 280 students attending Grades 7 to 11 in the current school year.
The school is named after Pierre Toussaint, a Haitian-born slave who was taken to New York City as a young boy. He gained an education and his freedom there, becoming a wealthy businessman. Pierre Toussaint is credited with starting the first school for African-American children in New York City; founding a predecessor to Catholic Charities in New York; and playing a leading role in the Catholic African-American community in first half of the 1800s.
Since its inception, College Pierre Toussaint has been supported generously by the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund of the Archdiocese of New York. In the words of Br Tyrone Davis, CSC, the director of the Fund, “We are returning to Haiti a small portion of the gift they shared with us more than 200 years ago—the spirit, dedication and passion of Venerable Pierre Toussaint.”
The required curriculum includes Mathematics, French, Creole, Spanish, English, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Physical Education. In addition to these required courses, Religion, Computer Science, Agronomy and Music are also taught. Extra-curricular activities include Chorale Pierre Toussaint, a 45 voice mixed choir, sports and local clubs that promote culture, social activities and community development.
The College’s Computer Lab is the largest of any secondary school in the Grand Anse Province, with more than 25 laptops, a full time instructor, and access to the Internet through a satellite internet system. The entire Lab is powered by solar electricity.
The students are highly motivated. They come to school every day, even when it rains. Even though the trails and roads are wet, muddy and slippery, the students make the extra effort to reach school on time. Sometimes, they remove their shoes while travelling, so that they will have clean shoes to wear at school. Since it are the only secondary school in a 40 square mile area, some of our children walk more than an hour each way to receive the “the bread of instruction.” Students are provide a hot meal to all students on every school day. For many students, it will be their best meal of the day.
In its short history, College Pierre Toussaint has developed a reputation for quality education, caring and motivated teachers, and good discipline. Already, the students are playing leadership roles in their villages and the Sassier community.
Families pay almost $70 per year for tuition, book rental and uniforms—an enormous investment in these young people’s future. For some families, this is as much as 1/5th of their entire year’s income. Even so, this amounts less than 20% of the operating cost per student. The ability of College Pierre Toussaint to continue to provide a quality education to its students depends on contributions from donors in the United States and other countries.