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Business experts help CedarBridge students

Professional support: for students at CedarBridge Academy

CedarBridge Academy students were given a helping hand by some of the island’s international business experts as they prepared for all-important exams.

Professionals from Bermuda’s international business community offered their support to pupils who are hoping to pursue a career with insurance or reinsurance companies.

The volunteer effort came from employees of member firms of the Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers.

The organisation arranged for the volunteers to visit the school for a series of review sessions focusing on their maths curriculum.

Wendy Outerbridge, the corporate secretary at BILTIR, said: “BILTIR’s member companies are made up of professionals with strong math backgrounds, namely actuaries, accountants and IT professionals.

“These professions require successful completion of a series of exams, so the volunteers drew from that experience, understanding the pressure that the students feel, and offered tips for exam preparation.”

The review sessions took place over the students’ lunch period as the volunteers provided condensed study notes for various sections of the exams as well as a set of practice problems as the schoolchildren prepared for exam day.

At CedarBridge, 114 S2 students wrote the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examinations in maths on May 4 and 11. The exams cover two years of curriculum.

The IGSCE exams are internationally recognised and accepted by universities and employers as proof of mathematical knowledge and understanding. The examining body is part of the University of Cambridge.

Scott Selkirk, a life actuary at Weisshorn Re and one of the organisers of the volunteer effort, said: “We know what the students are going through and we wanted to help in some way.

“The math teachers at CedarBridge have really done the hard work in preparing the students over the past two years. Our goal was really to jump-start the review process that the students must do on their own.” Aoife O’Hora, a life actuary at Ernst & Young and another organiser, added: “The idea stems from an initiative I was involved in through the Society of Actuaries in Ireland, which provides free mathematics tutorials to students in their final year of high school.

“The intention of the initiative is to provide additional tuition and encouragement to students in preparation for the mathematics exams, and to help keep options open for 3rd level education courses, some of which required a certain level of mathematics. Given the number of opportunities in professions requiring strong mathematical skills in Bermuda, this seemed like something which would also be of benefit to students in Bermuda.”

Ms Outerbridge said: “This is just the beginning of our relationship with CedarBridge. Based on the overwhelming response we received from our member companies of willing volunteers, we plan to expand the programme next year to cover even more of the exam material.

“BILTIR companies represent a growing sector of the international business community in Bermuda, and we want to make sure that local students know we are invested in developing the future talent of our industry.”

CedarBridge principal Kalmar Richards said: “I was elated when Aoife O’Hora and Scott Selkirk contacted me to ask about conducting review sessions for our students who would be taking the IGCSE maths in May of this year.

“Their willingness to invest time and resources to help our students meant more than they will ever know. It is a rare opportunity for students to be taught by professionals who are prepared to come into the classroom and impact their educational experience by reviewing the curriculum with them.

“Our students learnt useful strategies and they also learnt that there are professionals who care about their education and success. This experience has broadened their perspectives about math and increased their knowledge about the opportunities that await them in the future.”

Instructional leader Robert Steede added: “Their [the volunteers] preparedness was evident and their enthusiasm was visible to all. The students welcomed their contribution and actively participated in the lessons.

“The volunteers explained to the students that they were use to taking important tests and had found strategies which worked well — continuous practice (something teachers have told them, but it is probably more relevant when it comes from the actuaries) and shortcuts to solving quadratic equations.

“The volunteers also provided some insight into their profession. Of course, the students were particularly interested in their salaries. For me, it was an opportunity to form a relationship with the business community and to underscore the value of bringing the business community into the classroom.

As for the students themselves, many expressed their appreciation.

Seth Samuels (S2) said: “After attending the sessions with the BILTIR volunteers, I got a more concise understanding of the topics that were reviewed. The actuaries were patient and made sure every student had a full understanding.

“I feel that the sessions helped me with Paper 1 of the IGCSE math exam which I sat this week and I believe that I will do well on Paper 2 when I write the exam next week.

Kylah Hunt (S2) said: “My experience ... was amazing! This experience helped me freshen up on some things. The session also helped me to feel more confident with the things that I knew.

“I found out that I knew more than I thought that I did. It was the best study preparation session that I have participated in. I am glad I was selected to be a part of the review sessions.”

Eyani Franklin Smith added: “The opportunity to have study sessions with the BILTIR volunteers was a pleasure. In fact, the experience was out of this world. I enjoyed being able to solve questions that I did not initially understand in such a short period of time.”