SIMPSON BAY–Charlotte Brookson Academy (CBA) for the Performance Arts overcame a tumultuous six years of operation, moving from location to location, to successfully groom its students and graduate its first batch of thirteen students with a 100-per-cent pass rate, during a ceremony held at Simpson Bay Resort on Friday evening.
CBA Director Claudette Forsythe-Labega told The Daily Herald on Friday the school has proven its worth and believes it’s time that government gives the institution the recognition and assistance it rightfully deserves.
Valedictorians for the graduation classes were Deyoudis Jeffers for science and Zoria Arrindell for business. Both valedictorians delivered addresses during the ceremony. Loudahlia Brill was named most outstanding student. She also delivered reflections on her years at the school and delivered the Vote of Thanks.
Speakers at the graduation ceremony included the first principal and founder of the school Judith Bell; Labega, who delivered a poem, and founder of the school Julienne Augusty, who delivered the keynote address. Students also put on a performance in dance and music.
Anguillan cricketer and musician Omari Banks served as the Master of Ceremonies. Secretary General of the Ministry of Education Shermina Powell-Richardson represented Education Minister Wycliffe Smith at the ceremony.
Forsythe-Labega could hardly contain her emotions during an interview with The Daily Herald ahead of the ceremony on Friday, knowing that the school has reached the stage where its first batch of students will be graduating. “It’s been six years and I am really ecstatic. I am happy. It has been tough but knowing that we are sending out these 13 prepared students into the world and knowing that they did not just graduate, but also excelled, it was worth it all,” said the school Director, whose grandson was amongst the graduates. She thanked everyone who assisted the school along the way.
“We were the new kids on the block. We received mentoring and guidance from persons from other schools who were more seasoned, and we reached out for assistance wherever we could. It was tough moving from place to place, but without the hard work of my co-manager Hiro Shigemoto and teachers, who did an awesome job during weekends and during the afternoons, we would not have made it the way we did.”
She continued: “We have proven ourselves. We have proven our worth and we have captured a niche in the educational landscape of St. Maarten and we are hoping that this will convince government there is need for a school for the performance arts and will see the need to give us a building, because we are going into a lot of expense paying US $10,000 a month to rent a building. We have proven that we are needed. A school like ours is needed.
“Our students were rejected by academic secondary schools and they have proven they are not [rejects – Ed.]. It’s about time that government recognizes us as a different school and give us recognition as a special school and the subsidy and branding that comes as a special school.”
She said CBA would be able to do much more if it received the necessary funding, adding that CBA is currently limited and restricted because it has to pay a high rent. “We have kids who are autistic, kids with ADHD, including my grandson; kids with Asperger syndrome and kids with behavioural problems, and we have found ways and means to help these kids and they are excelling and are graduating. And we are the only school in St. Maarten that does this.”
She said the school is extremely strict and instils values and morals in its students. She is very proud with the first batch of graduates and wished them well in their future endeavours.