After standing on the roof of the Johnson’s Centre for what seemed an eternity, fixing gowns and hoods, reapplying make-up and fluffing and re-fluffing uncooperative hair, all in en-vogue but excruciatingly painful heels, the class of 2017 made its way down to the large room filled with family members and lecturers. At rehearsals the previous day, they had been told to “walk tall and proud,” shoulders high. Nonetheless, the extra bounce in everyone’s step just may have been because finally they were about to be done with the strenuous two years that had yet to be reduced to a distant memory.
Two years ago, over 1,000 young people, fresh from secondary school and brimming with enthusiasm for a new start, descended upon the revered Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. I was one of them. Admittedly, the thought of having to attend school away from my community of Choiseul, away from my friends, was intimidating, and the “sink or swim” environment of the school as referenced by this year’s valedictorian Tianah Foster, was quickly embedded in the students’ psyches. However, armed with the right mindset, I successfully made it to the end and along with 699 other graduates from the five other divisions of SALCC, and attended graduation on December 3.
Everything was kept brief at this year’s graduation exercise (and even started on time), yet nothing was rushed. The usual formalities of any graduation ceremony were upheld, and a few sincere moments added to the general atmosphere of the celebration. A customary moment of silence was held for the four lives lost during our tenure as students, and empty seats served as a reminder of their absence; a subtle tribute, yet an impactful one.
The Sir Arthur Lewis Community College’s 31st Annual Graduation Exercise also saw the unveiling of a mace, a new symbol of authority at official school events. Ceremoniously unveiled by the Governor General, the mace is made of a number of local woods and glass, with each part being symbolic of a certain aspect of St Lucian life, SALCC itself, and values upheld by both of the aforementioned.
This year’s guest speaker was in the person of 2012 SALCC graduate Rhyesa Joseph, valedictorian of the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus. Drawing from Sir Arthur Lewis’ infamous quote ‘the fundamental cure of poverty is not money, but knowledge’, Joseph fittingly referenced knowledge of society, self and purpose. As regards purpose of self, she reminded the graduates that ‘we overlook the extraordinary in ourselves and around us simply because we are accustomed to it. So we believe we are ordinary. But there is no one like you or us for that matter’. Joseph stressed on the importance of constantly planning and preparing for the ‘future you would like to reap’.
Seeing as it was the caption of many graduation pictures plastered all over social media, ‘success is not a
destination but a journey’ was perhaps the most impactful quote of the day. Joseph also urged the general audience not to sell themselves short, and to invest their time, talents and resources into meaningful investments and goals in an effort to ‘strive for the best version of [their selves]’.
Although the presentation was meant to drive introspection and reevaluation of self, that monumental task may have been reserved for solitary, late nights at home. Instead, the rest of the ceremony proceeded with a new energy, a lightheartedness of sorts, and continued through the certificate presentation portion of the afternoon. Seeing the other graduates walk across the stage was nothing short of entertaining. The slightest exaggerated hair flip or straightened tie had the audience in stitches. Even the sight of individuals loaded down with awards brought the house down, so to speak.
The uproar was just as strong when this year’s valedictorian, Tianah Foster, made her way to the podium. Foster’s speech, while reminiscent of the many entrepreneurial exploits of the student body, was centered on the way forward after successful completion of our tenure at SALCC. Her priceless advice as to how we can live our “best lives” at this pivotal point included adopting the right habits to arrive at long term goals, maximizing our resourcefulness and ridding ourselves of “toxic people.” She also used her valedictorian platform to commemorate the four lives lost from the 2017 class group: Zina, Zhane, Joshua and Nigel. Foster reminded all in attendance to appreciate the fragility of life, and to make the most of it.
Although numerous students were no-shows, as was the Minister of Education, Gale Rigobert—who apologized for her absence—this year’s graduation exercise was brilliant. There was no lack of inspiration; both speeches provided inspiration for graduates, their families, even the lecturers of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. I am happy to end this report with more of Tianah Foster’s words of wisdom: “You are never lacking resources. You are only ever lacking resourcefulness.”
Editor’s Note: Look out for the full text of Ms Foster’s address in the next issue of the STAR.