PHILIPSBURG–Twenty-four high school seniors of Learning Unlimited (LU) who graduated on Friday had secured scholarships at prestigious colleges and universities internationally. The class will also forever be known as the class that had to persevere in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster to strike St. Maarten last year, Hurricane Irma.
In addressing the students, President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams encouraged the graduates to use the Hurricane Irma experience to persevere, to endure, to overcome and to excel, no matter the obstacles encountered along their educational journey.
“That experience is worth years of education, if internalised and processed well. So, I encourage you as you go on beyond tonight and the closing of this educational phase to take that experience with you as a source of strength and determination. Strength that you will make it; the determination that, as difficult as things might seem, you can overcome with the will to do so and the realisation that family and friends are there for you,” Wescot-Williams said.
The Member of Parliament (MP), whose eldest grandchild is a member of LU’s graduating class of 2018, told the graduates that many of the places they where will attend college will not be like St. Maarten. In many of those places students will be just numbers, she said. However, she urged the graduates to make their number count and to never forget that in their suitcase they carry their lives as young people from St. Maarten, with the drive to push forward no matter what.
“You make yourself be counted. You decide to be counted. Not in terms of failures or casualties or anything of that sort, but be counted in making a difference. Computer lab, on the basketball court, athletics, academics, in your class, in your subject, let your number count, let it count. Let it be something. Let it mean something,” she said.
She stated that saying St. Maarten needs its young people to come back home to contribute in the many areas where young talent and expertise is needed should never be interpreted as a cliché, “because since September 6, 2017, you have seen what it is like, you have seen a prosperous country shaken in its very foundation, shaken to its core. Focus on what you can do to help rebuild, reform, redo, rethink.”
Valedictorian of LU’s senior class Anaya Merlet also used her speaking time to highlight the perseverance of her classmates after Hurricane Irma. “This school year started off with a literal bang. We cannot look back at the year and not acknowledge the havoc Hurricane Irma brought on in September. Especially for our class, this last year of high school suddenly became uncertain,” she said.
“The senior group chat buzzed when some of us finally had service, and we checked in with relief that we were all okay. Then followed days of question marks – what would happen now? How do we take our next SATs? When would we go back to school? Can we send in our college apps on time?
“Hearing from the school was a great relief. And thanks to the hard work of administrators, teachers and LU families, we were able to continue with our year and hardly miss a beat. It is a testament of how resilient we all can be, and should assure us of our strength when we are next faced with similar challenges.”
Nevertheless, Merlet said, as the seniors move on into the world, they will strive to excel as they always have.
“As we look forward to starting out on our own, away from the comforts of home and the school that’s been our base for so long, we may be wistful, we may be excited, we may also be apprehensive. Our first few weeks at our destinations may prove challenging, but I’m a firm believer that we need such new challenges once in a while, and being apprehensive is good and can even make us become intrepid – we will learn to adapt and we will strive to excel.
“This voyage will be different for each of us, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are all the more prepared for our next steps thanks to the education and relationships that we have built at LU,” she said.
The graduation ceremony took place at the school’s gymnasium in Cay Hill. The senior students of LU have earned more than US $1.81 million dollars in merit-aid scholarship offers from prestigious universities around the world.
A small sampling of university acceptances to date includes Georgetown University, New York University, Bentley University, Northeastern University, Fordham University, Boston University, George Washington University, DePaul University, Hofstra University, University of Miami, Clark University, Clarkson University, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, Brock University, University of Waterloo, Concordia University, De Montfort University, Reading University and King’s College.