“In your journey to explore life, keep God at the center of it all,” said Mr. Paul Wilson in his June 27th address to the Graduating Class of the Sint Maarten Seventh-day Adventist (SDA)School. Paul, an alumnus of the school captured the attention of the graduates and other attendees as he recounted life lessons of his migration from Jamaica to Sint Maarten, and opportunities afforded by the Sint Maarten Seventh day Adventist School.
Paul Wilson told the Class of 2021 that support from family and belief in yourself are important factors toward achieving goals. “Make sure you connect with people who want the best for you and listen to them. The amount of belief you have in yourself determines the depth of your resilience. When you believe in yourself, there is nothing that can stop you,” he said.
After he was diagnosed with mild Cerebral Palsy, Paul was told he may never walk. With the help of God, he defied expectations and is a graduate of the University of the Virgin Islands, with a BA in Accounting. “His strong faith is a testament to what God can do,” said his former teacher, Mr. Philemon Dupuis.
The Sint Maarten Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Dr. Rodolphe E. Samuel, encouraged the Class to look beyond today’s uncertainties. “Congratulations! You are graduating today. You now know that things will happen in life that [are] unexpected.”
The Education Director of the North Caribbean Conference, Mrs. Gerene Joseph, reminded the Class of 2021 that the ability to bounce back after adversity is not innate and, therefore, they have to practice, over and over, to build on their resilience. She also encouraged them to ensure that what drives them is more than mere self-interest.
The school’s principal, Ms. Clara George -Lazar, described the 36 graduates as brilliant, gifted and purpose-driven. She said that they endured the challenge of pursuing education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, they were the epitome of the class theme, “Real Excellence Through Resilience”. The difficult year required that the administration find innovative ways to continue education amidst the challenge of the pandemic. Principal George-Lazar elaborated, “Student Care Coordinators had to visit homes during the time of social distancing to support students so that no child [was] left behind. School counselors made endless phone calls to reach families who were hard to get in contact with and kitchen staff continued [to provide meals].” Among the graduating class was the North Caribbean Conference’s Grade Six Spelling Bee Champion for 2021, Kirk Lawrence.
In his Valedictorian Address, Pierre Assier De Pompignan encouraged his classmates to do their best, “Remember not to complain on those who have evil intention for you. God will give you the power to overcome, the tenacity to persevere and humility to serve.”
Many members of the Graduating Class have already been accepted into secondary institutions on the island. As they move to the next rung of their academic journey, some students shared that they are aspiring to traditional professions such as medical doctors, educators and lawyers.
When asked about a message for students in junior classes, the graduates were unanimous in emphasizing punctuality to school, obedience to teachers, school rules and regulations, neatness and above all, hard work.
The Sint Maarten SDA School was established on August 14, 1995, for the holistic development of children in the community. The school aims to equip children, age 4 to 12, with required knowledge, skills and beliefs, in harmony with the SDA philosophy of education. Allowing students to perform with excellence at each stage of their educational development is accomplished through the combined efforts of home, school, church and community.