In the process of attempting to place her then three-year-old in a nurturing and culturally affirming environment, June O’Connor’s daughter changed her career and life’s trajectory. It was the beginning of a daunting yet alluring and encouraging path to a mission in the field of education.
After a stint at St. Catherine High School as a literature teacher and a shorter stint at Jamaica Public Service, June O’Connor emigrated to the USA with a fixed purpose to complete degrees in law and journalism. She completed Lehman College and expected to dive into preparation for law school by studying for the (LSAT ) Law School Admissions Test, and immediately before that she would place her young child in an early childhood program located in her neighborhood. However, after an exhausting and disappointing search, she decided to take care of her daughter’s early learning experience and by kindergarten or so, she would enroll her in a program. It was the beginning of June’s education about the education system. The inherent discrepancies were glaring and alarming. So, June expanded her search for an appropriate and affordable placement for her daughter. What was affordable was inadequate, and what was adequate was unaffordable. It was an unspeakable dilemma for a single female of color. So, June applied and was accepted to Teachers College, Columbia University as a graduate student in education. She earned her master’s and then completed and obtained certification as a teacher.
The course at Teachers College lay bare the history of discrepancy and suggested solutions. Teachers College, Columbia University graduates have to be agents of change. It gave me the angles from which to approach the system, and even though I was laser focused on my daughter I kept a keen eye on matters of education. My discussion with friends and peers influenced a reevaluation of their approach towards their children’s education. Before long, I had 60+ children in my living room, and Garvey School grew out of that initiative which now houses a nursery – middle school. The graduates of Garvey School are impressive in their reach and aspirations. Just like that, June O’Connor became the lifelong education advocate.
She spent her early years in lush St. Catherine and early teens in Runaway St. Ann. While her ambition was always in the legal field, she was encouraged to Sam Sharpe Teachers College from which she graduated in 1981. June O’Connor is the parent of one child and a grandparent of a two-year-old grandson.