While all graduations are times of proud celebration, perhaps none was more so this year than the small Coral Bay public Guy Benjamin School’s promotional exercises at the Emmaus Moravian Church on Wednesday morning, June 13.
Despite not having a regular classroom teacher, the 11 students in GBS’s sixth grade proved an educational family can overcome adversity and challenges can make students stronger.
Although the students didn’t have the stability of one teacher, five individuals shared instruction duties. Retired teacher and principal Gwenavire Hyndman, paraprofessional Claudine Scatliffe-Daniels, substitute teachers Carrie Glenn and Albion Hendricks, and GBS acting principal Dionne Wells all taught sixth grade this past year.
“This was an eventful year for me, as my first year in administrative duties at my alma mater,” said Wells. “With the assistance of a dynamic staff we managed to weather a few storms. When I look at the promotees, I am truly proud of their accomplishments.”
Tireless Efforts Prevailed
“We all managed to make our mark on the sixth grade,” Wells continued. “There was not one teacher but five individuals who together managed to provide students with the educational requirements of sixth grade. It was tough, but with tireless efforts, we did it.”
Fifth grade students and their parents need not worry, GBS will have a full roster of teachers to continue the school’s long educational legacy, Wells explained.
“Next year we’ll have a full compliment of teachers,” she said. “Guy Benjamin is well-known for producing excellent students. At Guy Benjamin we view young people, not as vessels to be filled, but as candles to be lit.”
With their accomplishments at GBS leading them forward, the graduates should set high goals, Wells added.
“Don’t be afraid to dream and dream big,” she said. “Nothing is too much for you to accomplish if you set your mind to it.”
The “Gem” of Coral Bay
Department of Education officials are dedicated to the Coral Bay educational institute and not just for the opportunity to sneak away from their St. Thomas offices, according to DOE’s Insular Superintendent Lisa Hassell-Forde.
“GBS is a little gem on the eastern side in Coral Bay,” said Hassell-Forde. “I love coming here, and not just to get out of the office, but because of the strong sense of family. Always keep that sense of family and belonging.”
The Coral Bay students should never forget their roots, Hassell-Forde added.
“Remember where you come from,” she said. “No matter where you go, come back and give back. You have a community here in Coral Bay, in St. John and in the entire Virgin Islands, and they are behind you.”
Respect for Peers Important Too
The students should take what they learn and expand upon it, St. John Administrator Leona Smith told the graduates.
“Remember as you travel this road called life, having a good education is very important, but so is having respect for your peers, parents and others,” said Smith. “You don’t have to be an adult to be a good role model. You should all be good role models.”
The familiar and ever-true tale “It Takes A Village” was never more fitting than it is at GBS, explained second honor student Aleek Thomas, who had some guidance preparing his speech from his mother and GBS teacher Lucille Parson.
“It Takes a Village”
“My mother suggested that I read ‘It Takes a Village’ to help me write my speech for this morning,” said Thomas. “At first I didn’t know why, but looking back at my seven years at GBS I felt I was being raised by a village. Each teacher throughout the years taught me something.”
While the “villagers” have done a good job so far, their work is not complete yet, Thomas added.
“GBS is the best school on St. John,” he said. “I thank my classmates for being good friends. And I’m not raised yet, so the villagers still have work to do.”
Although first honor student Careem Albert had many thanks for family and teachers, he offered a challenge to his fellow students as well.
“I want to thank my family, the school staff and teachers — I will always remember what you taught me,” said Albert. “To the fifth grade, make sure you are here next year in black and white. And I challenge the boys to continue what Aleek (Thomas) and I have started — for a long time the girls had ruled.”
A Special Place to Be
“GBS will truly be missed because you all make it a special place to be,” Albert added.
The guest speaker, mechanical engineer Habibah Bell, urged the students to stay on track and not only finish school but complete college as well.
In addition to Albert and Thomas, GBS’s 2007 sixth grade class consisted of Allonti Wiltshire, Me’Shaun Wilkinson, Ernest Williams Jr., El Antione, Okyeame Brown, Hakeem Miles, Alejah Raimer, Hannah Hendrington and Andrew Penn Jr.
Musical selections were provided by Delroy Anthony, who sang an a capella song about the importance of participating in a child’s life, and Hendricks, who impressed the crowd on his saxophone.
Fifth grader Carishma Marsh did an excellent job as mistress of ceremonies.
Board of Education member Oswin Sewer and Senator at Large Carmen Wesselhoft were also in attendance.