History of Ocean Academy

The story of how Ocean Academy was founded and built is summarized below. However, it is the youth who tell the story best, so please take a moment to meet the students and learn why it was so important to open a high school on their island. 

Caye Caulker Needed A High School: Before Ocean Academy's opening, education finished on the island at Standard VI. Just a few privileged families could finance the daily commute to mainland high schools. Young students had to travel alone and navigate the capital city’s streets, or leave their families to board on the mainland. Parents were desperate for safe and equitable access to high-school education. Read more.


In February of 2008, Heidi Curry and Joni Miller held community meetings and built this website.  Co-Founder Dane Dingerson donated the land and building.  Desi Rosado, a Belizean-American, funded start-up costs. Backed by the determination of the community, Ocean Academy was accredited by the Ministry of Education and opened its doors to as Caye Caulker’s very first high school.


Seven Months of Development: The founders never imagined they would open a school in seven months.  In February of 2008, Heidi Curry spoke of the idea in a local coffee shop and a mother overheard.  "My kids need a school this September!"  From one mother to another, the news spread and Heidi was driven by their determination to educate their children.  Heidi Curry called the Ministry of Education and met optimism and encouragement.  Below is an outline of the steps Heidi Curry, Joni Miller, Dane Dingerson and the community of Caye Caulker took to build the institution of Ocean Academy.  See photos of the construction of the building led by Dane Dingerson.


February 2008:          

  • Survey of community interest and needs.
  • Joni and Heidi come together and spend several exciting days brainstorming how they could assist the community in opening a  non-profit high school.
  • Heidi contacts Belize Ministry of Education for procedural guidance.
  • Principal of Caye Caulker Roman Catholic Primary School, Mrs. Enelda Rosado, pledges support.
  • Village Chairman Ralph Humes pledges support.
  • Dane befriends Joni and Heidi.  He donates land and pledges to construct and furnish the building.
  • Website is created.

March 2008:

  • Submission of formal written proposal to Belize District Education Council/Belize Ministry of Education.
  • Joni and Heidi speak with parents at two meetings hosted by the Caye Caulker Roman Catholic Primary School.
  • Village Chairman Ralph Humes and Primary School Principal Enelda Rosado write letter to the Honorable Minster of Education expressing their support for Ocean Academy to open September 2008.  Joni, Heidi and Pikey gather signatures of 200 villagers in support of opening Ocean Academy in September 2008.  Both documents are delivered to the Ministry of Education.
  • Pre-registration of students.
  • Belizean-American Desi Rosado pledges funding for start-up costs, including computers.
  • Donation of textbook class sets from School District #63 B.C., Canada;  Edvantage Press, B.C., Canada; Midway ISD, Waco, Texas; California.
  • Identification of qualified local teaching staff.
  • Review of Belize Secondary Curriculum and Standards supplied by QADS.
  • Bylaws created for Ocean Academy Board of Directors.
  • Dane and crew begin school construction.


April 2008:

  • Joni and Heidi meet with many community members and committees to discuss the school's mission, goals and progress.  Consultations and presentations are held with District Education Manager Jahmor Lopez; Honorable Minister of Tourism and Aviation and Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., assistant Betty Longsworth; Village Chairman Ralph Humes and the Caye Caulker Village Council; Members of the Regional Council, Members of the Caye Caulker Executive Committee
  • Heidi proposes "Travelers with Heart" charity in Texas.  IRS tax-exemption papers are obtained.


May 2008:

  • Heidi and Joni convene Travelers with Heart Board of Directors Meeting, in Belize
  • Establishment of financial-aid fund.  Donations are received from international private donors
  • Meetings continue with community leaders, stakeholders and Ministry of Education
  • Dane and crew continue construction of the building


June-July 2008:

  • School planning and organization
  • Meetings continue with community leaders, stakeholders and Ministry of Education
  • Fundraising strategies and grant proposals ongoing
  • IRS tax-exemption application and supporting documents filed
  • Dane and crew continue construction of the building


August 2008:

  • Heidi meets with the Honorable Minster of Education Patrick Faber
  • Heidi and Joni convene Ocean Academy Board of Directors meeting
  • Regional Council inspects school site
  • Ministry of Education grants school license
  • Heidi and Joni lead professional development sessions for Ocean Academy teaching staff
  • Dane and crew complete construction of the building. Desks, tables and whiteboards are set up. Wireless internet is installed.