L to R: Salutatorian Rainella Labadie and Valedictorian Ameera Mustafa of the SCECHS Class of 2017
The St. Croix Educational Complex High School (SCECHS) awarded diplomas to 179 students in its "Supreme Class of 2017" at the school's 22nd Annual Graduation Ceremony held Tuesday, June 20 in the gymnasium.
The class, comprised of 82 male and 97 female students, marched into the arena to a spirited beat, lead by the school's concert band.
Family, friends, and well-wishers packed the bleachers to witness the first high school graduation on St. Croix for the 2017 season.
There was no shortage of praise and adulation of the students from Principal Genitta Richards, Education Commissioner Sharon Ann McCollum, Governor Kenneth Mapp, Rep. Stacey Plaskett and the many other dignitaries in attendance.
In her remarks, Salutatorian Rainella Labadie, praised her alma mater. "Complex [high school] prepared us for the complexity of life," she said. The No.2 student added, "High school was in no way entitled to give us anything; rather, it was up to us, individually and as a group, to take." She highlighted classmates who took advantage of career and technical certifications and those who gained college credit at UVI. In the end, Labadie admonished her peers to "stay woke and never weak," a reference to remaining vigilant in the changing social climate into which they are entering.
In her valedictory address, Ameera Mustafa praised her parents for their encouragement and sacrifices, and went on to challenge to her peers to give back. "I challenge everyone to seek to help someone, in some way, everyday. It can be a family member, a friend or a complete stranger. Make an effort to make a difference in someone's life, no matter how small."
A highlight of the ceremony came with a solo performance by Omari Auguste, who serenaded the crowd with an infections reggae tune, performed by the SCECHS concert band, stating that he's "not throwing away his shot" at a bright future. The performance rendered the future music instructor a standing ovation.
Keynote speaker Attorney Akeel St. Jean, SCECHS Class of 2007, shared his experiences of racial prejudices he experienced while attending college on the mainland and his determination to succeed. He was the first student of color to hold his university's student body president. "Coming from the Virgin Islands and from St. Croix Educational Complex, in particular, you are able to compete with any group of young people all throughout the world." Today, he is an Assistant Attorney General on St. Thomas.
Mr. St. Jean went on to praise the Complex High School faculty and administration for helping students succeed, despite not always having adequate funding tp complete tasks. "We make do with what we have and we compete on the highest levels, despite the shortcomings," he said. Mr. St. Jean also implored students to not be a part of the "brain drain" that happens when students move off island and never return home. He encouraged them to study abroad and return to the Virgin Islands to help build up and sustain the economy.
Platform guests included Governor Kenneth E. Mapp, Education Commissioner Sharon Ann McCollum, Ph.D., Education Assistant Commissioner Chermaine Hobson, Rep. Stacey Plaskett, Principal Genitta Richards, St. Croix District Insular Superintendent Colleen Mae Williams; and Deputy Superintendents Vaughn Hewitt and Faith Dane George-Boone, and other dignitaries.
The Educational Complex Class of 2017 received millions in awards and scholarships; 159 will attend colleges/universities; 15 will join the military; and five will enter the workforce, trade school or other interest.