By Davion Smith, BVI News Online Staff
Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) graduation, which took place yesterday at the Multipurpose Sports Complex in Road Town, is certainly one for the British Virgin Islands history books.
Why? Students from the recently established Grade 12 graduated for the first time in the school’s history.
They also have completed an advanced curriculum never before required locally at the secondary school level.
Minister of Education Myron Walwyn, who spoke at the graduation ceremony, described the batch as “the most qualified set of students to graduate from secondary education” in the British Virgin Islands.
He further explained: “ESHS earned a 98 percent pass rate. Of the 162 students [who enrolled in Grade 12 at the school], 159 were successful in achieving all the graduation requirements Of those students, four received high honours, and 71 received honours. I want to make special mention of Kelliann Freeman who placed second in the territory [and first at ESHS] with a Grade Point Average of 4.07.”
Walwyn, who pioneered the Grade 12 initiative locally, bragged that 32 of the graduates already have passed enough Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) subjects to qualify for a Government scholarship.
He added that another 28 graduates, whose CXC results are pending, are well on their way to meeting scholarship requirements too.
Walwyn used the opportunity to defend his decision to change the scholarship requirements – a move that now links the scholarships to results in the CSEC exams, which are administered by CXC.
“It was important for us to make the five CSEC examinations compulsory for receiving a Government scholarship at this level, because it helps to give more credibility to our local education system. If our system is to be considered a strong educational system, then it must follow that our students should be able to sit and pass regional examinations,” he said.
Walwyn also defended his controversial Grade 12 initiative, which has faced a number of hiccups.
He however told graduates to learn from the challenges, because they too may experience similar obstacles in years to come.
“When faced with tough decisions, you must take decisive action and get things done. You cannot sit and wait for all the ducks to line up, because they may never line up. You just have to move forward with what you know in your heart is the right thing to do,” Walwyn further told the graduates.
Six tough years
Principal Sandy Underhill, while noting the many challenges that were associated with the Grade 12 initiative, lauded her graduates for their perseverance.
“It has been a long six years and a very challenging journey, we can all agree. You (graduates) have experienced some of life’s steep mountains and rough seas, but you learned to climb and you learned to swim. You adapted, you persevered, and you are victorious today,” she told the 2017 graduating class.
“Our students did exceptionally well, considering the various challenges they faced – having to relocate to a new campus; coupled with the rigour of the curriculum they were exposed to this year – which included the demands of CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations) and college credit courses; in addition to being involved in extra curricular activities,” Underhill added.
She also commended members of the ESHS staff who, according to her, had challenges of their own.
Meanwhile, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, who also attended the graduation ceremony, had sage words for the graduates.
“Know that the journey towards achieving your ultimate goal has just begun,” he said.
“It is what happens after [graduation] that will determine the type of future you choose for yourselves,” added Premier Smith, who also told the graduates to draw inspiration from local role models such as 400m hurdles sensation Kyron McMaster.
Responding on behalf of the graduates, valedictorian Kelliann Freeman described graduating as a ‘bittersweet’ occasion.
“Thank you to the BVI government for providing world-class education,” she added, while expressing gratitude also to other members of the community.
Freeman told her fellow graduates: “Tonight (June 22), we celebrate together… Guys, we are finally out. And I know that our emotions are fluctuating.”
“Despite the many, many, many, many challenges we faced in our last year, we managed to be successful with a 98 percent pass rate… Class of 2017, we will keep moving forward and pushing beyond our expectations. Congratulations to this class,” Freeman further said.
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