As our community continues to grow, so do the needs of its residents. Over the years, San Pedro has been able to offer a high school education (San Pedro High School), followed by an Associate’s Degree program (San Pedro Junior College). Rather than having to travel, being far away from family, and spending lots of money on rent and food, students have been able to attend classes with the added convenience of evening hours. Those who work during the day find that being able to accumulate credits at night works to their convenience, especially for those who have put their education on hold. Now, it is time for yet another advance in the educational opportunities of San Pedro.

On October 19th, 2010, The San Pedro Sun received a press release from the University of Belize (UB). The release stated that “[UB]…is pleased to announce that for the first time, its Bachelor Degree in Tourism Management Program will be offered in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, in January, 2011.” For many recent graduates of San Pedro Junior College (SPJC), this is quite possibly the most exciting news, as they now may continue their education in the comfort of their own home. When we contacted Mr. Froylan Gilharry, Assistant Dean of San Pedro Junior College, he was enthusiastic about the program.

“This has been one of my personal projects; to convince UB to offer a degree here on the island, since I am the tourism teacher at SPJC and a graduate from University of Belize,” stated Gilharry. His enthusiasm kept him going through the negotiations for “over a year”. Having met with Mr. Kevin Geban (UB Tourism Lecturer) and Dr. Vincent Palacio (Dean of UB), they ironed out the logistics and now, finally, it will be feasible to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in San Pedro. As contact person for UB San Pedro, Mr. Gilharry was quite happy to provide us with information regarding the course, and the technical aspects of it.

According to him, the program will be a partnership between UB and SPJC. SPJC will offer all pre-requisites in order to complete the Bachelor’s Degree program. Classes will be held on Friday nights and all day on Saturday. Taught by UB Lecturers and other experts, the new program will be a great introduction of UB to San Pedro. Gilharry further stated that, “Depending on the enrollment, and the interest from students for other courses to be offered, UB will then make that decision when and if it is feasible to offer any other programs.”

For their part, UB found that San Pedro, Ambergris Caye was a logical place to expand and offer their advanced courses. Dean of the Faculty of Management and Sciences (FMSS), Dr Vincent Palacio explained that the expansion of the program “is in keeping with the continued commitment of the national University to provide affordable and accessible educational and training programs that are relevant, responds to, and contributes to national development needs and priorities of Belize.” The release further states that while the tourism sector continues to be a priority for the Government of Belize, UB is committed to playing an active role in the development of said sector by producing quality human resources. Ambergris Caye has been classified as one of the most important destinations for Belize’s tourism, accounting for 42.3% of total tourism expenditure. Now, the human resources on the island can add a Bachelor’s Degree to their accomplishments, further enhancing the industry which they thrive on.

Currently San Pedro Junior College offers three programs: Associate’s Degree in Business Management, Associate’s Degree in Business Administration (majoring in Accounting) and Associate’s Degree in Tourism Management. Any student who graduates from SPJC can easily enroll in the new UB Bachelor’s Program, as all subjects offered by SPJC are accepted by UB. A recruitment session will be held at San Pedro Junior College on November 5th, 2010 at 7pm. For more information, contact Mr. Froylan Gilharry at the SPHS/SPJC building during office hours.