It’s the season to celebrate, and you need to celebrate, because compared to other countries, we enjoy a high graduation rate.
This time of celebration is also a time of celebration for our teachers and our parents. I had the opportunity to teach in high school, elementary and middle school. I can honestly say that teaching is hard work. Recent challenges due to the increase in the number of unruly children (and parents) and, recently, COVID-19 have only added pressure on the profession.
While I get a feel for the challenges, I fully appreciate the joys of seeing students succeed and achieve major milestones and goals. Congratulations to those of you teachers who have given your all and although this is not always reflected in student results, we see you and your efforts.
And parents, some of you may breathe a sigh of relief seeing your “not-so” babies graduating at different levels. Congratulations to you and especially to parents who understand the parental responsibility to get involved and stay involved in your child’s life. There are tremendous blessings ahead for parents who fulfill the God-given mandate. I recently saw that a single mother in the Bahamas had major problems and her electricity was disconnected. This, of course, affected her child’s ability to do schoolwork. This mom switched shifts so she could get out of a laundromat and sit in a car with her son (for hours) so he could use WiFi and get his job done. I remember after Hurricane Ike I was lucky enough to secure a device for internet services and I will never forget a request from a single mother
Navia Mantock from Ona Glinton Elementary School in Grand Turk and Vivian Parker from Provo Christian School in Providenciales. Congratulations also to our valedictorians and finalists and our most improved students. I must, however, single out the young men who took the top spots nationally, but especially in North Caicos where three young men held the top three spots in the RGHS Class of 2022.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an ardent Baptist, so I must distinguish the school ministry from my church in Wheeland, Providenciales.
This year, Bethany Baptist’s BEST Institute earned three spots on the nation’s top ten CPEA student list. A big congratulations
ations to Mrs. Elizabeth Simmonds who worked under a veteran educator and recently retired from government, Darlene Lightbourne. Worth mentioning is that the valedictorian for BEST was 10-year-old Antwan Forde, who I’m told handled his speech like a boss.
I have been fortunate to get a glimpse of many of the graduation ceremonies across TCI and am proud of these students, given the challenges COVID-19 has presented on their journey. But my heart also breaks for those kids I knew who lost their parents and siblings and still make it through. More and more of our children are experiencing loss and it is so important for us not to ignore this period of their lives and to offer them support, especially from professionals. We mistakenly believe that our children can go through anything and everything without support. We need to change this approach.
And so, graduation
fever is in the air; and while we know it’s not a happy time for everyone, we can agree that it’s an ending and a new beginning for everyone.
There are those who definitely got what they worked for and perhaps exceeded expectations. There are those who have done just enough to get by and are more than capable of doing more. Likewise, there are those who tried their best and were disappointed with the end result. Then there are those who haven’t tried at all. Whichever group you find yourself in, now is the time not to look back, but to look forward, learning from this season while preparing for the next.
I can still feel the excitement of my high school graduation 34 years ago. Maybe it’s because it was the only one I ‘walked’ to, even though I graduated from three colleges in the years that followed.
I was a self-funded, ie broke, student who had to go home to work and could not afford return trips. Degrees do something in the mind and can be a real boost for the next step. But that summit may soon be shattered if we do not anticipate and prepare for the challenges that are sure to arise.
Life is never meant to be a bed of roses and it requires action on our part and whatever action we take (which includes doing nothing) determines our course. The right attitude leads to the right response and the truth is that challenges and disappointments shape character and can be the main driver of your success if managed and handled with precision.
At every turn, I encountered challenges of being denied scholarship after scholarship despite being valedictorian and national top student for CXCs. I started to believe that I would never succeed even if I hustle. I wondered if it was realistic to try to become a lawyer, given that there were less than 10 local lawyers. I started to doubt, then I started to resent people when I knew their actions were meant to suffocate and hold me back and also where they were just plain indifferent. I had even accepted a private scholarship for hotel management and was disappointed just a few days before it was time to leave, I then took that negative energy and used it for the positive as I was then determined after the fourth year (my first year in Barbados) of my seven-year student career, that this was my way forward.
But with setbacks I saw helping hands and earlier sacrifices and decisions proved to be divine bonds for the journey and I got the desired results.
In my fourth year of school, after a year of enforced hiatus, my parents used the property to secure a small Development Council loan with the help of my former teacher, Mrs. Myrtle Mills.
I step back for context and content and share that after two teaching stints in my home island of South Caicos, I had made the decision to leave South Caicos and join the staff of Barclays. This institution hired me every school break. It wasn’t easy then, to leave them after four years to join a law firm that couldn’t pay me that much.
*But when the door was opened by Mr. Owen Foley, I understood the benefits and made a conscious decision to avail myself of the opportunity. This relationship helped me financially and there was general support throughout my final two years in my undergraduate program and throughout my tenure at Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica.
With each angel sent on my journey, I grew more and more confident that I was on the right track. One incident that shattered all doubts was when the late Paul Williams of Barclays Bank called me in Barbados to tell me about a student loan program that Barclays Bank was about to launch. Long story short, two loans were approved for TCI just before they decided the program was unprofitable. And you guessed it; mine was one of them. I was able to pay off the development board and have something for my remaining years. But more was to come. I had kept applying for a scholarship and after eight years of applying, I remember like now; Mr. Llewlyn Handfield, who had now come to know me personally through church connections, questioned me about my condition and well-being and requested a scholarship for me. After applying from 1988 for eight years, I was awarded a two-year scholarship in 1996.
Why am I telling you about my business? It’s simple. I know that many of you will find encouragement for the journey ahead. For many years I was still angry when I thought about my experiences or when I was asked to share, but today I draw strength even now and I remain grateful for each experience because it makes me feel better. prepared for even more difficult times in life while strengthening my faith.
I shared with you a brief part of my journey so that you can appreciate that I speak from experiences and feel confident when I share with you some lessons of my life:
1. Work hard in your studies and never slack off. Do it for yourself and do it well knowing that even reaching the top may not give you the results you want when you want them.
2. Don’t give up. Keep asking and keep applying for this scholarship.
3. Take jobs that help you more towards your destination, even if the money is less.
4. Invest in yourself by getting loans if you must.
5. Keep faith in God and pray for a spirit of discernment that will help you make divine connections and make the right decisions.
6. Remember that even though the doors you expect may be closed to you, God can and will create special doors for you if you let Him.
7. Don’t let bitterness take control of you.
8. Use bad experiences to get you ahead.
9. Don’t doubt yourself even if others do.
10. ABOVE ALL, remember, no one owes you anything.
You are on a new journey, graduates. Make the most. What happens to you is ALWAYS in your hands! Put God first, work hard, stay focused on the big picture, use your challenges as obstacles, let life experiences shape you into a sought-after persona, make meaningful and positive connections with people who uplift you and inspire you!
Celebrate a little longer: Set new goals at every turn, smash them and celebrate along the way.
Happy graduation, class of 2022!
* Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson is a trained lawyer, former Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands and retired politician.