H. Lavity Stoutt Community College graduates laugh while listening to top student Ryan Ramlall’s speech during their graduation ceremony last Thursday at the Multi-purpose Sports Complex. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

The 2024 graduates of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College know a thing or two about adversity. Many of them weathered Hurricane Irma around the time they started high school, and a pandemic arrived less than three years later.

But such experiences will come in handy as they navigate the future, student respondent Ryan Ramlall predicted during their graduation ceremony last Thursday at the Multi-purpose Sports Complex.

“As we walk across this stage today and collect what we rightfully earned, we want everyone here to know that no matter how many storms life throws at us, the ​​Class of 2024 will still shine,” Mr. Ramlall said. “And trust me, I know every individual went through their fair share of storms to make it to this point today.”

An HLSCC student smiles at the audience while crossing the stage at Thursday’s graduation
ceremony. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

From attending classes online during the Covid-19 pandemic to going to school in temporary facilities on shift schedules after Hurricane Irma, many of the graduates had to learn to adapt to extraordinarily challenging circumstances.

But they made it, and 186 students graduated last week: 54 men and 132 women. In addition to the 123 associate degrees that were awarded, 38 certificates of achievement and 39 certificates of completion were also handed out, according to HLSCC Vice President of Operations Dr. LuVerne Baptiste. Twenty-nine graduates earned honors — 21 cum laude, three magna cum laude and five summa cum laude.

Additionally, 18 became members of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and 42 became members of the National Technical Honor Society.

Mortarboard messages
The ceremony

Family and friends filled the seats in the sports complex as graduates took their seats in the centre of the room not long after the 1 p.m. start time.

The ceremony, which lasted approximately three hours, featured speeches by officials from HLSCC, government and other organisations.

An HLSCC student celebrates after crossing the stage and receiving his degree at Thursday’s
graduation ceremony. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

“We expect you to be anything you want to be,” said keynote speaker Dr. Joel Warrican, who is the director of the School of Education at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus. “Limitless — whatever you choose to do, know that you may encounter challenges and roadblocks along the way towards your dreams. But remember, an empowered mind seeks solution[s].”

Other speakers included HLSCC President Dr. Richard Georges; Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley; Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro; and Professor Emeritus Arthur Richardson, who chairs the HLSCC Board of Governors.

‘What’s next?’

After the ceremony, the graduates hugged family members, chatted with each other, and reflected on their educational journey.

For Eriel Stewart, who received an associate’s degree in general science, Irma hit just as she began high school.

“It was a very, very, very difficult experience,” Ms. Stewart, who attended St. George’s Secondary School, told the Beacon. “I only had one regular day. And then the hurricane just kind of took everything. And then we came back a couple weeks after the hurricane and just tried to do the best we can.”

HLSCC graduates smile after crossing the stage at Thursday’s graduation
ceremony. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

Despite the hurdles, she believes she was well prepared for college. With various extracurricular activities, including karate, piano and dance, she said one of the biggest challenges during her time at HLSCC was learning how to manage her time well.

“I took five classes each semester, and it was really a lot to manage with the heavy coursework,” she said. “So I had to make sure that I was on top of things.”

Mr. Ramlall, who started HLSCC in 2022, faced similar hurdles leading up to college. As a student at Bregado Flax Educational Centre on Virgin Gorda, he attended classes on a shift schedule after Irma and online during the pandemic. And living on a sister island, he said, brought additional challenges.

“I feel like we don’t have as much resources as Tortola would get,” he said.

But Mr. Ramlall believes the challenges he faced during his schooling prepared him well for his future. Graduating with two associate degrees — one in business administration and the other in general science — Mr. Ramlall won the president’s award for the full-time student with the highest cumulative grade point average.

The Class of 2024 for HLSCC, laugh while graduate Ryan Ramlall delivers the student address. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

Janaye Garrin, who received an associate’s degree in computer science, said she found motivation through her parents.

“I had times when I just wanted to leave school and never come back, but I stayed through,” she said.

Ms. Garrin started HLSCC in August 2021, when classes were still being conducted online. For her, one of the biggest challenges was the quick transition from high school to college.

“I graduated in August and college started in August,” she said. “So it was kind of hard for the first few years, but I got into it.”