For nearly four decades, UWC Cayman Islands has provided opportunities for Caymanian students to broaden their academic and personal horizons at highly regarded schools around the world.
The not-for-profit UWC Cayman Islands is one of more than 150 national committees for UWC International (United World Colleges). Since its founding in 1984, the Cayman committee has selected and sponsored more than 75 Caymanians to attend UWC schools, which offer the 2-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
The IB programme is similar to GCE A Levels.
Currently, there are 18 UWC schools across 4 continents, including North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
This year’s application deadline is 15 Feb. for Caymanians who will be age 16 or 17 on 1 Sept. 2021. Students who are selected will begin UWC in the fall.
The person in charge of this year’s selection process is UWC Cayman Islands Vice Chairperson Martina Jackson, who was picked to attend UWC in Swaziland (now called Eswatini) in southern Africa while she was in her final year of John Gray High School in 2008.
“UWC really was the best 2 years of my life. It did shape who I am as a person, and I think all of us that have been through the programme say similarly,” Jackson said.
After UWC, Jackson would go on to attend Florida State University and study actuarial science. At university she was credited with 1.5 years of coursework due to her IB programme.
Although her profession is grounded in mathematics, Jackson credits her IB education with developing her skills in art, which remains a major part of her life. When the Current spoke to her on Monday, she had just had an art exhibition the week before at the new venue Parcel 110 on Cardinall Avenue.
UWC Cayman Islands typically selects 2 or 3 students each year for the programme.
“It’s a competitive process. We certainly look for students to have strong academics, but also to be quite well-rounded. We want to be sure they can thrive in these challenging environments, where they’re having to keep up with their academics, and are in a new place, and are making the most of the range of activities and community service, and building relationships with the other students from all over the world that are there,” Jackson said.
The openings at colleges vary from year to year.
“We don’t get offers from every single college each year. We also don’t tell the students which colleges we have offers from,” she said. “We want students who apply to be quite open, so in the interview process we have that discussion with them about what their preferences would be. We ultimately try to put students in places we think are good for them.”
After the initial application deadline 15 Feb., the committee holds interviews with candidates, followed by a group stage.
“We have to submit our nominations to UWC International by the end of March, so it all happens very quickly,” Jackson said.
The UWC school year begins in August, except for the college in Eswatini, which starts in January.
In addition to the local selection process, UWC Cayman Islands also can help students in Cayman who do not have Caymanian status.
“We can give them advice on their country’s selections or just UWC in general. I’ve worked with students on that as well,” Jackson said. “Other students who have gone through other national committees are invited to our socials as well.”
Another possible option is UWC’s Global Selection Programme, which is for students who may not be Caymanian, or who want to attend a UWC school but are not looking for financial assistance.
“We’ve had students selected through that as well,” she said.