CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq — Local community leaders and members of the Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team, 17th Fires Brigade attended the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $2.8 million two-story Basrah Talent School, Oct. 1.
"This teaching institution is for boys and girls who have been identified as having particular educational abilities," said Tawded Abd Al-Rida, principal of the Basrah Talent School. "The school will constitute an educational beacon for the city of Basrah and the impact of this educational institution will be felt by generations to come."
The tone of the event was set by members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division Band, who were on hand to play several selections of U.S. and Iraqi standards. Accompanied by the school's students, vocalist Sgt. Jennifer E. Macdonald's rendition of Iraq's national anthem highlighted the band's performance.
"They seemed so proud that we were able to sing their national anthem," said Macdonald. "It was amazing. I felt so fortunate to be up there singing for them. I never thought being deployed to Iraq would include something like this."
After speeches were made by various community leaders, attendees were treated to an opera performance by several local actors, depicting the possibilities students will have if they put forth their best effort and study hard.
PRT Director John Naland, a featured speaker at the event, remarked on the school's design as a picture of progression for the future improvement of Iraq.
"This beautiful school is the newest of four talent schools in Iraq," he said. "This multi-million dollar facility is another example of the people of Basrah striving for progress."
Located in Basrah's al Jameat District, the school can house up to 200 students and consists of 12 classrooms with enough space to hold 30 students each. A science laboratory, language arts teaching center and the school's library all can be found in the central part of the campus.
A computer and electronic media learning laboratory with 17 new computer systems, a gym with six new treadmills, free weights, a gymnastics balance beam and spring board, parallel bars and an array of sports equipment are conveniently located across from the campus dormitory.
The dormitory has dozens of rooms equipped to house four students to a room. The rooms the students share come furnished with wall lockers to store their belongings, bunk beds and two desks each.
All students are required to pass an entry exam before gaining admission to the school.
Staff Sgt. Hugo Rivera, 1314 Civil Affairs Company, 17th FB, one of the Soldiers who assisted in its final inspection, commented on the school's obvious impact on the Basrah community
"The Talent School will signal a return to normalcy for Basrah City and will provide a much needed tertiary educational facility in an otherwise poor Al Jameat district," he said.
Tawded said the completion of the school marks the beginning of a process to provide the youth of Basrah Province with a sound educational foundation.
"This facility means so much to our community," she said. "It will inspire hope in the people of Basrah and spark a substantial economic development that will have a stabilizing effect in our country."
This work, Basrah's future on display at school's grand opening, by SPC Maurice Galloway, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.