Clark Johnson, 38, is an example of an island entrepreneur who, with little capital and a lot of vision and determination, was able to fill a gap in the Bay Islands’ educational needs.
Over the last two-and-a-half years he has build a 10-classroom facility on his property in Brick Bay. While today there is a two-storey building, a basketball court and a meeting plaza, the process of construction wasn’t easy. Johnson spent a lot of his energy trying to convince banks to lend him money for his school. He went to BGA, Atlantida, Bamer, Lafise, etc. asking for a guaranteed loan to build his dream school. The bankers all said no. “They wanted to lend money only for homes, businesses,” says Johnson, “but not for education.”
In the end Johnson decided to build the school on his own despite the reluctance of Honduran banks. With Lps. 4.5 million of his own and some money borrowed from friends he constructed a facility that now serves 180 students.
The Instituto Tecnico has 10 classrooms, a library and a computer lab. Its staff of 11 teachers looks after the education of grade 7 through 12 students. Unlike most government schools IT requires a 70%, not 60%, for a passing grade. “Some students tell me it is too hard and they don’t want to study here. But one of the concepts is to keep the level of education very high,” says Johnson.
The school’s beginnings were humble. It opened for business in 1999 in a wooden house in French Harbour. A year later the Tecnico moved to a four-classroom building across the street. Their own building in Brick Bay didn’t materialize until 2005.
On Roatan, the Instituto Tecnico has filled in a vast gap in the education needs of the growing island. Until then, the Bay Islands’ schools offered no educational opportunities to students interested in studying a technical field. The school is meant to provide technical education that would aid students in getting a work place or in preparing them to go into University. According to Johnson between 50% and 80% of Tecnico students go on to University. Some of the first ones are getting ready to graduate.
Johnson is not the first in his family to begin a school. In fact he is third in a generation of family entrepreneurs and educators. His sister Roselyn Johnson started Lake Rose English School in French Harbor. His cousin Gloria Johnson began a Saint ‘Maryland Institute secretarial school’ in San Pedro Sula.
Johnson graduated from Honduras’ La Universidad Autónoma with a degree in electrical engineering. This is where he met his wife Carmen who works as the Instituto’s administrator.
“My dream is to have electrical, mechanical and electronic careers offered at the school,” says Johnson, who plans on approaching the embassies of Japan and Korea to help make this into reality. [/private]