By anguillian December 4, 2017 11:39




In a spectacular array of pomp and ceremony, the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School (ALHCS) conducted its 28th Year-Five Graduation on the evening of Thursday, November 23rd. Under the theme “Our Social Media Code: Embracing Progress and Productivity with Compassion and Responsibility”, the record-breaking audience was thrilled as it spontaneously relished the effervescent proceedings which marked the graduation of the largest Class-Five ever, in which one hundred and eighty two students were honored for their academic achievements.
Following the picturesque procession and the rendering of the National Anthem, the National Song and the School Song, a fervent prayer of invocation was offered by Pastor Juliet Simon. The Chairperson, Mrs. Shellecia Brooks-Johnson, was then introduced by Ms. Maris Edwards, and the ceremony took off with due focus being placed on the productive and beneficial traits of 21st century social media.
In her address to the class, Minister of Education, the Hon. Mrs. Cora Richardson Hodge, warmly congratulated the graduates. She said that she was honored to take part in their celebration of success and accomplishment. “It is a celebration,” she stressed, “because you have all worked hard to get here. You have confronted the challenges, plotted the course and, in the end, you have weathered the storm. I know that the term ‘weathering the storm’ is an expression that in these post-Irma days takes on a whole new meaning for us here in Anguilla. But this natural disaster has, in fact, taught us important life lessons.”
Mrs. Richardson-Hodge reflected, “We in Anguilla are weathering the storm much the way you have in your journey through the ALHCS. Working together with your parents and your teachers, you have overcome the obstacles and that has enabled you to be sitting here today. You may now ask the question, ‘What lies ahead?’ Well, what lies ahead is anything that you might choose to set in motion. You are in control of your own destiny. You may face many uncertainties in the years to come, but always know that you have the ability to achieve.”
In alluding to the graduation’s theme, she noted: “The theme for this year’s graduation demonstrates changing times and our move into a more technological world.” “Social media now dominates our lives,” she declared. “We are constantly posting, tagging, tweeting, going live and responding to beeps, pings and chimes. In fact, for some of us, the smart phone or tablet has become an extension of our hands.”
The Minister continued in part: “I think the most important piece of advice that I can give you, as you begin to forge your own path, is to be yourself. No matter what you might do in the future, to thine own self be true. Your belief in yourself will be tested in the years to come. You will make mistakes, you may fail, and you may feel defeated. But always remember that without failure there is no success. Failure is important and necessary as it teaches us a lot about what we need to know in order to succeed.”
In closing, Minister Richardson-Hodge congratulated the class once again, and recognized the teachers and parents with congratulatory expressions. Her last words to the graduates were: “As you venture out into the unknown, I leave you with these parting words: the path to success is to be brave, be bold, be you.”
His Excellency the Governor, Tim Foy, delivered a brief light-hearted speech that was, characteristic of him, rather less than “formal”. It was a casual address that caused the audience to chuckle occasionally, while accepting his wise counsel.
The Governor began: “Good evening everybody. Thank you for having me here, and good evening and congratulations to the Class of 2017 or, as I think, you will be known in the future as the Class of Irma. I do hope you’ll make a “storm” in whatever you do. I am very taken by the words of Shakespeare alluded to by the Minister of Education, ‘to thine own self be true’. That’s probably the reason why I sat with a priest one day when I was in seminary, and we decided that the priesthood wasn’t for me. I had tried to tell that to my mother, but I didn’t get very far. Anyway, we parted on reasonable terms just before she died, when she finally forgave me by using the words of Oscar Wilds when he said: ‘every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” (The audience laughed in amusement)
His Excellency continued: “I would like to say sincere appreciation to you for getting this far. It’s not easy getting to eighteen. I know. I tried hard at least once. I want to give a word of thanks to the teachers for staying the course with you in passing down knowledge. A word of thanks as well to all the teachers of the country at large who helped us to get our skills back up and running within four to five weeks of Irma, the first of the Overseas Territories to be able to do so. Next, a word of appreciation to your parents. Obviously you would not be here without them.
“What does it mean to graduate?” the Governor asked. “Well, clearly, you are leaving this school. It’s the start of your life as adults. You’re the next generation. You’re the great runner in that great relay race. Just as you have expectations, it means that the responsibility is on you, and people will be looking for you to take forward those important roles of leadership, whether it be in politics, in business or in civil service functions. When you think about what your contribution will be, think about the great contributions that Anguillians have made in the course of this country’s history.
“As you know, 2017 saw the passing of three great Anguillians: James Ronald Webster, the Father of the Nation, our political leader; Franklin Connor, the Father of Public Administration; and the late Mr. Albert Lake, a leader in the world of business. The country, more than ever, needs people across all disciplines. Going forward there will be significant opportunities for you. So just think of those who went before you, and think about what you can do to emulate the contributions they have made.”
In closing his address, His Excellency remarked: “Anguilla should be proud of the ‘Class of Irma’. It’s a Class 5, if you know what I mean…(Cheers, applause and laughter). They have come true quite strong. They are the very best that the country has to offer. I am immensely proud to be here, because I am sure that the next generation of this country is in safe, competent and capable hands. God bless you all, and good luck with whatever you do. Thank you!”
The prime focus of the ceremony continued to be on the graduates whom the Keynote Speaker, Mrs. Tonya Carter-Wright, addressed with a cheerful air of jovial, profound charm. After laying her groundwork by reflecting on her roots and legacy as a proud Anguillian, and upon expressing her gratitude for her own upbringing at the ALHCS, Mrs. Carter-Wright, now a medical practitioner in the US, charged the “social media” graduates:
“Over sixteen years ago, like you, I started a journey for the next chapter of my life. One of the main differences between my journey back then and your journey today is social media. Social media has revolutionized the world in the way we communicate, network, buy and sell, and bargain. You have to be ready to embrace social media. You have to be ready to use it in order to be progressive and productive, but you have to exercise caution, compassion and responsibility in doing so. The social media code is that set of ideals and behaviors that we apply when using social media. Social media, like everything else, offers us the good, the bad and the ugly.”
“It’s reported that Facebook has two billion users, with over one billion logging on every single day. A vast network such as this has its benefits, and it can be used to foster relationships with individuals that share similar interests and talents. Social media allows you to see the world through the eyes of others. It offers a global perspective that reaches far beyond Anguilla. It takes just one word — one hash-tag — to bring two complete strangers together with a common goal. For example, when I searched the hash-tag “#Anguilla Strong”, following the devastating Hurricane Irma, I instantly became part of a global network with one common thread: “Love for Anguilla”. I was moved by the generosity of Anguillians and friends of Anguilla at home and abroad, and by the resilience of my people and my land. With the aid of social media, Anguillians and friends of Anguilla were able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for our relief effort — a perfect example of how social media can positively affect society.
“Now we go to the ‘bad and the ugly’. Cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is the use of electronic communications to repeatedly harass a person by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. This can include hurtful comments, threats, rumors, pictures or videos circulated and distributed online. Cyber-bullying is either post anonymously or under a fake name and false account. This is deliberate behavior to attack vulnerable individuals based on their race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation and physical appearance. Cyber-bullying is emotionally and psychologically damaging and destructive. Compassion is lacking; kindness is lacking. If we are committed to compassion, many of the destructive posts on social media would not exist. Many of the destructive whatsapp photos and videos that are circulated online would not be distributed. We have become very cold and uncaring. This is reckless and irresponsible behavior, and we have to put an end to it. We have to practice putting ourselves in the shoes of others. We must practice empathy, which is sharing in the feelings of other people.
“Many of us” she noted, “were raised in the church and we are quite familiar with Luke 6:31 which says: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. So if you may forget everything that I say here tonight, please don’t forget this: promise me that before you post or distribute anything, you would first ask yourself, ‘how would I feel if this were me?’ So, commit to compassion in your social media code of behavior and exercise empathy. I encourage you to use social media to achieve productivity, progress and success.”
Mrs. Carter-Wright finally invited the graduating students to stand and said this to them at the end: “As you set out on your journey, you will be told you’re not good enough; you won’t make it; you don’t have enough money; you’re not smart enough. These are untruths to take you off your course. These are distractions to take your eyes off the prize. If I had listened to the naysayers, I probably would not be here today. If I did not have friends and family and teachers supporting me, and pushing me along the way, I may have given up. Parents and guardians, I encourage you to be that for our children. Ladies, present yourselves with humility and grace. Gentlemen, have integrity and honesty. May all of you be the best that you can be, and let God take care of the rest. It is my prayer for all of you that you would go out and accomplish your wildest dreams. There is no limit to what you can accomplish. Be patient and stay focused.”
Following the keynote address, the proud graduates filed on stage to receive their certificates and awards which were presented by the Principal, Mrs. Webster- Stuart, assisted by Ms. Amber Woodley and Michelle Queeley.
Next, the program called for the Principal’s remarks. The Principal, Mrs. Joyce Webster-Stuart, spoke in tender congratulatory tones as she encouraged the graduates from the pen of the poet, Mary Engelbreit’s “Don’t Look Back; You’re Not Going That Way”. She began by remarking to the students: “I pause when I look out at you this evening because quite a few of your classmates are visibly absent from this celebration; absent not because of a lack of opportunity on their part, but because they did not look ahead to what this opportunity could afford them. That saddens me greatly.”
She then hastened to affirm: “But to you, the graduating class of 2017, I say ‘Don’t look back; you’re not going that way.’ A few years ago, each of you began your secondary school journey. Some of you were nervous and apprehensive; some of you were anxious and excited. Your parents went through it with you, encouraging and supporting you, hoping that this evening would come and you could all say proudly, ‘It was worth it’.”
The Principal continued: “On September 5th thru 7th we all felt the stress of preparing for and, of course, experiencing the onslaught of Hurricane Irma, one of the most traumatic and dramatic events of our lifetime — one that would challenge and ultimately change the way we do things at ALHCS. Yet, your celebration tonight is the same as always but, in many ways, quite different. So I say to you again, ‘Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.’ But the question is, ‘Where are you going?’ Perhaps Mary Engelbreit’s poem can assist you:
As you travel through life there are always those times,
When decisions just have to be made.
When the choices are hard and solutions seem scarce,
And the rain seems to soak you parade.
There are some situations where all you can do
Is to simply let go and move on.
Gather courage together and choose a direction
That carries you toward a new dawn.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other,
And taking your life day by day.
There’s a brighter tomorrow that’s just down the road.
Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.

With that encouraging rhythm and rhyme, the Principal made her farewell remarks and presented the graduates: “So I wish you God’s speed with my favorite principal quote from Cliatt Wayman. (And to the sound of cheers and applause from the affirming class, she declared): ‘If nobody told you today they love you, remember that I do and I always will.’” Then, asking the graduates to stand, she said to them: “My heartfelt congratulations to each one of you on reaching this milestone. Please, turn your tassels.” Finally, she proudly proclaimed amidst lively applause: “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the 2017 Graduated Class of the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School.”

Following the Principal’s speech, the ALHCS Choir, directed by Mrs. Daphne Jacobs-Richardson, rendered a stellar performance of the song “Time to Shine”. The arrangement was immaculate and the harmony astounding, as the choir was accompanied by the musical talents of the ALHCS Concert Band directed by the renowned Lennox Vanterpool. An outstanding highlight during the rendition was when one band-member and graduate, Casey Richardson, moved from the bandstand to make an unexpected appearance in front the choir, exhibiting skilful featuring on the bass guitar while the choir lustily rang out the chorus with a gleam of pride and hope on everyone’s face. The rendition was nothing short of amazing.

The last speech of the night was by the Valedictorian, Mr. D’Kaelen Richardson. A stalwart of courage and pride behind the podium, D’Kaelen began:
“I am absolutely honored to have this privilege of standing before you, representing my class as valedictorian. On behalf of the entire class, I would like to acknowledge all of you who supported us on this journey. To our teachers who patiently and diligently dedicated themselves to us for five long years, despite the innumerable times we made you want to quit, we say thanks.

“Thanks to our Head of Year, Ms. Michelle Queeley, for your continuous admonitions and specifically for defying the odds in ensuring that we had a graduation ceremony, when we thought it was a definite no-go. Most of us will retain the many principles you instilled in us during the last three years. We truly appreciate everything you have done for us. And to all our teachers, we are indeed grateful for your guidance and advice.

“To our families, especially our parents, for the thousands of dollars spent on books, for the numerous threats and unending nagging, and for not killing us when we thought we could out-do you in arguments. That especially goes out to all the moms tonight. Most of all, I give thanks to God because it was only by His grace and mercy that we survived within the compounds of the ALHCS.”

D’kaelen deliberated much as he reflected on the many challenges and rewards that he experienced while being a student at the ALHCS. Glancing back for a moment, he made these poignant remarks to his peers: “Class of 2017, before we embark on this new journey and simply leave everything behind us, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and recapture the highlights of each year. I am reminded of Charles Dickens when he said, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Many of us would put emphasis on the latter part”. He then commented on their innocence as they began at Campus B and their experiences as they moved upwards through the school.

“Class of 2017,” D’kaelen continued, “If you look at all we’ve accomplished in this era alone, there is no doubt in my mind that the sky is the limit. Take the risks and go beyond what your comfort dictates. We have the tendency as young people, in this age, to runaway the moment that challenges come our way. But we will soon realize that we can’t run from trouble or from change. On every corner, and every road on our journey through life, trials are patiently awaiting us. Whether we accept it or not, dealing with challenges are the only way we would progress as individuals.”

These were D’kaelen’s final remarks: “High school is merely the first out of many opportunities awaiting us, so don’t beat up on yourselves. Despite how important they are, remember that life is not just about good grades or prestigious titles but about the relationships made. Life is about shining your light so brightly that you make a difference in someone else’s world. Class of 2017, I am extremely lucky to have been able to spend high school with you. I couldn’t have asked to be grouped with a more quirky, fun, trouble-making crazy group of people. You are simply the best, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

At the end of the ceremony the Vote of Thanks was delivered by graduate Chadd Hodge, followed by a stirring recessional with the music “I Feel Good” / “Uptown Funk”.

We ate The Anguillian wishes to heartily congratulate all of the graduating students, the teachers of ALHCS, and the parents and guardians who have been made proud to participate in the celebration of their children’s accomplishment. We wish them every success as they pass every milestone in education on the journey of life.

By anguillian December 4, 2017 11:39


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