Members of the Elmore Stoutt High School Class of 2022 are just getting started on their journey, according to the theme embraced by the graduates, loved ones, and educators who filled the Festival Village Grounds on June 23.
Emery Che Pemberton, a member of the Class of 2002 and emcee for the ceremony, welcomed attendees to the first fully in-person graduation ceremony since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Pemberton encouraged the outgoing students to affirm that “I am ready” for what lies ahead, and to give the same validation to their peers. The afternoon was filled with appreciation for the support systems that helped the graduates reach their goals, and for the students who put in the work.
After the 137 graduates collected their diplomas to much fanfare, valedictorian Christina Creque grew emotional as she recognised the hard work her peers put in to cross the stage that day. She recalled that seventh grade — the school year before Hurricane Irma — was the most recent “normal” school year she could remember, when the students entered with a hopeful outlook.
Despite dealing with room changes and shift schedules after the 2017 hurricanes, the Class of 2022 continued its educational journey. They again adapted in 10th grade with the onset of the pandemic, she recalled.
“While the effects of the pandemic have not disappeared, and the obstacles we face have yet to cease, we are still standing strong because we are anointed,” she said, before starting an eager call-and-response with her peers about being anointed.
Salutatorian Caliyah Charles celebrated the culmination of years of hard work by the Class of 2022, which she said paved the way to limitless possibilities for the graduates.
“We have worked diligently and persevered despite the many obstacles that we encountered on this journey,” Ms. Charles said, encouraging her fellow graduates to embrace the joy of the day.
Four students graduated with high honours, and 75 graduated with honours.
The keynote speaker was Angela Burnett-Penn, the valedictorian from the Class of 2002, who went on to become a government climate change officer, designing adaptation projects and focusing on the territory’s long-term resilience. She is also known for penning the Irma Diaries. Ms. Burnett-Penn encouraged the graduates to pause and consider the “blank canvas” before them, envisioning what they could paint in 20 years.
“I’m not suggesting that you plan every detail of your life — in fact, far from it,” she said. “I am suggesting that you decide to be intentional, very intentional, and limitless about the life you create for yourself.”
Regardless of what pigments or tools they use, those pictures should be vibrant and beautiful in their eyes, she said.
Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley congratulated the Class of 2022 for having “beat the challenges and disruptions” put to them by the pandemic and 2017 hurricanes.
“While you were working, it might have seemed that the goal was just to complete the courses, get your passes, and graduate,” Dr. Wheatley said. “Here you are, and we’re telling you that you’re just getting started. By now you would have understood that what you were going through was the preparation for something greater – the rest of your life.”
For those considering a future in the public service, graduates with creative ideas will be welcome, Dr. Wheatley said. He encouraged the graduates to spot new opportunities and pursue them, as many previous ESHS graduates have successfully done.
“Step into your journey with confidence and conviction,” he said.
St. George’s graduation
On June 27, St. George’s Secondary School celebrated 15 graduating students at the St. George’s Episcopal Church in Road Town.
The ceremony was scaled back due to Covid-19 restrictions, but it was livestreamed via Facebook for those who could not attend.
The graduates were encouraged by their valedictorian, Sarah Ramdatt, to never let their goals become a chore and to always cherish the current moment.
Both she and salutatorian Eriel Stewart acknowledged the significance of the graduation as a point where growth and change begin.
Ms. Stewart plans to continue her education at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, and Ms. Ramdatt intends to complete a two-year programme before attending university abroad.
The graduating class was sent off with speeches by Principal Cherilyn Anderson-Rogers and speaker Denesha Penn, as well as a musical presentation from the Form Four music class. The graduating class also said goodbye to their Form Four counterparts, lining up to pass candles to the younger students.
Sariah Lake contributed to this report.