1897 map of Kingston with Alpha Cottage to the far right.

The Alpha Institute, (formerly Alpha Boys School) was founded in 1880 and born of the vision of Jamaican philanthropist, Jessie Ripoll. Her dream was to minister to the hopes and aspirations of young Jamaicans at the bottom of the social ladder. As such, Alpha has long been a beacon of light and hope for the Jamaican society as part of the Mercy Sisters’ focus on education, youth and the vulnerable in society. The original 44-acre property now includes 5 schools—Alpha Institute, Convent of Mercy Academy ‘Alpha’, Alpha Infant, Alpha Primary and Jessie Ripoll Primary.

Best known for its music program, past Alpha students like Joe Harriott (jazz), Don Drummond (ska), Winston Francis (ska soul singer), Leroy Smart (reggae) and 1997 Grammy nominee Winston Foster (dancehall), to name just a few, are viewed worldwide as pioneers in their genre. Indeed, Alpha is a “dream factory” (NPR) for “legendary musicians” (Jamaica Gleaner) who “helped release the spirit of one of the most musical islands in the world” (The Telegraph/UK).

SELECTED MILESTONES. For the full history click here.


  • Winners of the Jamaica Best School Band Competition


  • Alpha Boys School transitioned to the day school called Alpha Institute.


  • The school’s band started as a Drum and Fife Corps.


  • The Sisters of Mercy arrive at Alpha from Bermondsey, England.
  • Alpha’s founders join the order of Sisters of Mercy.


  • A few boys were admitted to Alpha Cottage.


  • Forty-three acres of land at 26 South Camp Road was bought for £400 by Ms Jessie Ripoll, a Jamaican of Portuguese parentage. Starting with an orphan girl, Jessie Ripoll and two friends (Josephine Ximinez and Louise Dugiol) formed the Alpha Cottage orphanage on May 1, 1880.