Eighteen students of the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) graduated on Saturday, March 5 during a well-attended ceremony held at the Saba University School of Medicine (SUSOM) . Seven graduates were not present to receive their diplomas due to circumstances.
The graduation was pushed back to March this year for different reasons, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic which had a big impact on the examinations. Despite all challenges, Form 5 Vocational, Form 5 Pro and CAPE had a 100 percent passing rate. Only Form 5A CSEC did not have a 100 percent passing rate.
Master of Ceremonies Peter Johnson welcomed the 11 graduates on Saturday as they entered the auditorium: Billy Jean Rodriguez and Tara Zagers of Form 5A CSEC, Dareno Gomez, Alpha Nicholson and Shaliq Woods of Form 5 Vocational, Shanika Biggs, Stefanie Hassell and Shemar Marten of Form 5 Pro, and Tanisha Matthew, Valeria Perez Cordero and Jamal Roberts of CAPE.
The other students who graduated, but who were not present mostly because they already went abroad to study were: Randy Goorcharran, Keeshaun Hughes, Tyler Johnson, Maya Juana, Lyieshah Peterson, Shannia Petit Homme (valedictorian) and Jafari Woerdings (salutatorian), all of Form 5A CSEC.
Commissioner of Education Bruce Zagers, who was unable to attend due to a COVID-19 infection, was represented by Rosa Johnson who delivered his speech on his behalf. Zagers, but also the two other speakers, SCS Director Anton Hermans and keynote speaker Gerald Simmons-de Jong referred to the challenges that the Class of 2021 faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Your journey has not been easy with a pandemic, a lockdown, digital learning, delayed examinations and concerns about your diploma. We are all extremely proud of what you have accomplished in these trying times. They are a testament to your perseverance, your intellectual abilities and your resolve. You have overwhelmingly proven that there is no challenge too big that you cannot conquer,” said Zagers.
“You have been challenged significantly and you have overcome everything that has come your way, making you stronger, more resilient young adults. One day you will look back at those challenges and those fears, you will understand that you were tested. The lessons you have learned will better prepare you for your future. The proverbial ball is now in your court. Work hard, be honest, humble, mind and have a positive mindset,” said Zagers.
SCS Director Hermans recognized the concerns and uncertainties that the Class of 2021 faced with their diplomas caused by the new law that went into effect last year for Saba and St. Eustatius with regard to the transfer to the Caribbean Examinations Council CXC education system. “This graduation is overshadowed by the miscommunication from the school to you the graduates, the parents and the community at large. Allow me to apologize. I deeply regret this,” he said.
Hermans praised the Class of 2021 for staying the course, also in light of the “distracting circumstances and chaos” that the pandemic brought. He referred to the Class of 2021 as “uniquely gifted individuals who have come together and have found success in a variety of ways.” He reminded the students to keep working hard. “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. Get out there and continue to do something great.”
Keynote speaker Simmons-de Jong spoke about the seven checkboxes that were indicated in the Netherlands in order for a person to be successful in life. These checkboxes are: being white, male, straight, highly educated, speaking high-level Dutch, having highly-educated parents and living in the urban areas of the Netherlands. Only about 3 percent of the people tick all seven checkboxes. “Social patterns like these seven checkboxes are problematic. They are meant to keep power where it has been for a long time. If you don’t tick all the boxes, you will just have to work harder.”
Simmons-de Jong said he did see opportunities too. “Change can start close to home. We can start breaking these patterns by mentoring our people, by coaching others, by building each other instead of tearing each other down, by recognizing our future young leaders around us and by investing in them, by hiring based on competencies and life experience instead of social class,” he said.
Simmons-de Jong closed his speech by addressing all 18 graduates individually, mentioning their strengths and wishing them all the best. His address was followed by the presentation of all subject awards by teacher Brianna Murray and the presentation of the special awards. Because both salutatorian Jafari Woerdings and valedictorian Shannia Petit Homme have already left the island to further their studies, their speech was read by Murray. After the traditional passing of the mantle and the vote of thanks, the event was closed with a toast to the students and a reception.