ST. CROIX – The St. Croix Educational Complex High School’s (S.C.E.C.H.S.) “Brilliant, Optimistic, Laudable, and Diverse (B.O.L.D.) Class of 2019” held its commencement ceremony on Thursday. The B.O.L.D. class earned more than $2.8 million in academically driven merit-based scholarships. Of the 160 graduating, 119 have been accepted in college, 30 enlisted in various branches of the military, 14 have enrolled in technical schools, and 13 are undecided, according to outgoing Principal Genitta Richards.
This year marks the school’s 20-year anniversary. S.C.E.C.H.S. opened in 1995 under Senator Kurt Vialet’s leadership. He was the first and longest serving principal, and was at the helm of S.C.E.C.H.S. from 1995 to 2011. The first 4-year graduating class, the alumni class of 1999, were present to celebrate with S.C.E.C.H.S. Class of 2009 was also present to lend their support and celebrate with this year’s graduating class.
S.C.E.C.H.S. is home of the Barracudas, dubbed the “Barracuda Family,” and identifies with the slogan, “Barra Nation.” Ms. Richards stepped to the podium and remarked, “It is always a great day to be a Barracuda. It is a great day to be in “Barra Nation.” She attributed the school’s success to teamwork from her faculty and staff and commented that they worked well together because they genuinely liked each other. She ended with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”
Carlos McGregor, acting insular superintendent of Department of Education (D.O.E.), told the graduates they should never stop trying and never stop learning. “Live life to the fullest. Give nothing but your best,” he encouraged. “All you have to do is believe that you can.”
Raquel Berry-Benjamin, D.O.E. commissioner designee, began with a shout of “Barra Nation!” “As a daughter of a fisherman, I feel the Barra pride in here today,” she said. She encouraged the graduates to always be their authentic self and to know who they are, what their strengths are, and to always aspire to give back to someone else.
Governor Albert Bryan started by telling the graduates that the one thing he learned about graduation is to be brief. That statement was met with laughter. He said, “God is an amazing God who does wonderful things for us. Every day he puts obstacles in your way to make you stronger. He does things you do not understand at the time, but you have to ask Him why have you put this in front of me, and what it is I have to learn from it.” The governor then encouraged the students to continue to be brilliant, optimistic, laudable, and diverse as they entered the world of higher education.
Micaya Labadie, class valedictorian, was introduced by Natasha Liburd, assistant principal at S.C.E.C.H.S. Ms. Liburd shared a Jay Raymond quote she said perfectly describes Micaya, “Somewhere between what she survived, and who she was becoming, was exactly where she was meant to Be.” Micaya’s dream is to serve the global community. She volunteers at the Red Cross and the Women’s Coalition thrift store. She is a member of the S.C.E.C.H.S. student council and drama club. She has placed in literary competitions and is recognized for her poetry and prose. Micaya takes rigorous courses as part of the STEM oriented magnet program and is an honor student enrolled in advanced placement courses that has allowed her to prepare herself for an ambitious future.
Micaya told her fellow graduates, “I command you to stand up for what you stand for. Embrace your identity and remember that the journey, not the outcome, is what holds the most value. Success is defined by what you learn from your journey not where it takes you.” She ended with a quote by Mark Cooper: “Life has no remote, get up and change it yourself.”
The class salutatorian, Mojania Denis, when introduced, received resounding applause from his fellow graduates. He is the senior class president, a 4-year magnet student, member of Future Business Leaders of America, the National Honor Society, S.C.E.C.H.S. chapter of Mu Alpha Theta National Mathematics Honor Society, and the applied science club. He represented the Virgin Islands at a robotics competition in Washington, D.C. where he placed first. He aspires to be a civil engineer.
Mojania explained that he never envisioned being class president or salutatorian. In spite of the two category five hurricanes that struck the territory, we remained strong, persevered, and ended our year in style, he said. “Essentially, today is a day of thanksgiving without physical food. However, what we are digesting is praises for our hard work and our congratulatory remarks for a job well done.” He said that freshman year taught him about friendship, sophomore year was the sequel from the freshman year lessons about friends, junior year taught him about love, and senior year taught him about the importance of supporting and motivating his fellow peers to become the best versions of themselves.
Keynote speaker, Kurrisa Vialet, is an S.C.E.C.H.S. alumnus who graduated in 2009. She earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering with a minor in math from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. She is a chief engineer at Turner Construction Company in the Carolina office in Charlotte. The company is headquartered in New York and, according to Ms. Vialet, is the number 1 contractor in the nation. She is currently working on a master’s degree in construction and facilities management and attributes her success to the good teachers in the Virgin Islands public education system. She is the daughter of Senator Kurt Vialet and Wanda Figueroa-Vialet, an educator in the VI public school system.
Ms. Vialet told the graduates, “The only thing constant in life is change. In order to grow you have to get out of your comfort zone.” She said the S.C.E.C.H.S. Class of 2019 is the 24th graduating class of the youngest high school in the territory who received an educational foundation that has prepared them to be able to step to toe to toe, at any time, with any country or state in the world.
Ms. Richards took time to honor S.C.E.C.H.S. employee of the year, Denise Philbert-Encarnacion, and S.C.E.C.H.S. teacher of the year, Joann Lewis, who is an AP biology, AP physics, and honors physical science teacher described as a teacher who worked even on weekends to prepare for her students. In 2006, under Mr. Vialet’s leadership, with Ms. Lewis as coach, S.C.E.C.H.S. won the territorial Science Bowl for seven consecutive years.
The top twenty-five students of the class were honored and stood proudly as each of their names were called and family members tooted horns and shouted in support of their accomplishments.
After receiving their diplomas, the S.C.E.C.H.S. class of 2019 was presented by Ms. Richards to all present, and as they danced in celebration caps were thrown into the air.
The graduation ended with a prayer by Nadisha Julian, S.C.E.C.H.S. class of 2019, as family and friends waited eagerly to continue the celebration with their graduates.
All pictures courtesy Government House.