The Commencement Exercise was the final stage for the Senior Graduating Class of the St. Croix Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) School. As the Island Center auditorium echoed with strains of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, from music director Josephine Thomas-Lewis and the school’s band, the Elite Class of 2019 marched into history as the 44th Graduating Class.
The graduating class listened attentively as the keynote speaker, Dr. Leon Wilson, Provost of the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad, shared powerful wisdom in an unruffled style: “Let your dream be the catalyst for the direction of your life and let it motivate the rest of what you do. If you haven’t started dreaming, start now!” He admonished the class to move forward and complete their education amidst the many distractions and obstacles.
The Education Director of the North Caribbean Conference (NCC), Mrs. Gerene Joseph, addressed the graduating class: “As you bask in the glory of your achievement, I challenge you to begin to carefully chart out the next phase of your educational journey. Dare to make resolutions. Resolve to do something positive, something original, and something profound. Do not be afraid to make mistakes for many great inventions occurred as a result of people trying and failing, and trying again. Continue to make your mark on this world as only you can!”
With placid aplomb, the Valedictorian, Stacy Frederick, encouraged her class to press on with perseverance, determination and confidence. She observed, “When we started, we were 17, then dropped to nine and now four. We persevered and we accomplished our goals.” At the start of the school year, Stacy entered the Early Admissions program at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and completed one year of her journey to become a physician. Her educational achievement guaranteed her a full scholarship from the United State Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Education to the University of the Virgin Islands. Stacy received the NCC Bible Award of $500.00, the NCC Math Award of $500.00, the John Simmons Scholarship of $1000.00, and other awards from the VI Board of Education.
As the Salutatorian, Mahlana Graham, credited her success to the church, her family and God, her effervescence was contagious. Mahlana, who was also a student in the Early Admissions program, is planning to become a physician and will continue her undergraduate education at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. The University granted her its premier scholarship of $48,000.00, along with a presidential scholarship of $5,500.00. In an emotional address, she pleaded with her class, “Let us not forget that every milestone of achievement is because of God and we must thank Him.” Mahlana’s list of accomplishments included representing the USVI territory twice in the Poetry Out Loud Contest, held in Washington, D.C.; church-planting in Mexico; and, working as a missionary on an Inter-American Division (IAD) sponsored mission trip in 2016. She received the Rotary Mid Island scholarship of $8000.00, the NCC Math Award of $500.00, the NCC Salutatorian Award of $800.00 and an Award of $800.00 from the VI Board of Education.
Having nurtured the Val and Sal, the Christiansted SDA Church had a deep connection to this graduation and many church members were present to celebrate, “with their own,” in whom they had invested so much. Two former principals (Mrs. Jasmine Thomas and Dr. Edward Griffin) of the school are members of this congregation and they were pleased with the academic accolades of the graduating class. Dr. Griffin reminisced that one week ago, he had the satisfaction of celebrating with his granddaughter who was a member of the sixth grade graduating class in which eight of nine students graduated with honors.
Chenel Mia Aubert, another graduating senior and member of the Peter’s Rest SDA Church, was accepted to more than three prestigious universities. She received the $500 English award from the NCC and merit scholarship offers amounting to more than $40,000.00.
The talented Shomari Chavez Francis, who joined the class in the junior year, earned the distinction of being the only male in the graduating class – he plans to attend the University of the Virgin Islands.
When the graduates took their walk on June 9, 2019, as alumni of the school, the message of the keynote speaker, re-sounded, “Keep going – don’t allow your circumstances to stifle your dreams! Your academic journey must not be divorced from your spiritual journey. It must be stated that you will succeed only as you allow God to lead you and guide you. As you pursue education you are pursuing your salvation.” That’s the journey that all graduates will ultimately walk.