Minister for Education and Culture Honourable Myron Walwyn Remarks for the 2015 H. Lavity Stoutt Community College Graduation Ceremony
It is my distinct pleasure to wish you all a warm and pleasant good afternoon.
I extend heartiest congratulations to the class of 2015 on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Culture and admonish you first to be thankful for what you have achieved here at HLSCC, and second, to continue on the path of success. Graduates, you deserve every bit of pomp and circumstance that you will have today and I encourage you to soak up the moment as we celebrate you and your success.
This country needs you as we all work to continue its development and endeavor to maintain a stable and growing economy. Your success in your chosen fields will be important as we strive to continue to build our twin pillars of Financial Services and Tourism and begin to build new pillars.
Whatever it is that you have decided to do after today, I want to encourage you to always strive for excellence and to also think of ways you can utilise your skills and talents to the benefit of these islands.
The fact that you have toiled, persevered and achieved your goal in completing this leg of your tertiary education, or completed certification in a particular skill, makes this time and year special. I have also toiled hard and persevered on another journey and am thankful that I can be here today to congratulate you and continue to be a part of this process of developing a modern and progressive Virgin Islands for all.
This year is also special because the institution is celebrating 25 years since its doors were opened. It is exciting to see how the vision of the former Chief Minister, the late Honourable H. Lavity Stoutt has blossomed and matured and while we still have a distance to travel, we have achieved much to be proud of.
Over the last few months the Administration, Faculty and staff of this institution spent many hours defining the elements which will lay the foundation for greater recognition of this college and open doors to greater opportunities for our people.
During the Founders Day Ceremony earlier this year, I challenged the college to go even further than we are right now and make this institution the best of its kind in the region. As leaders of this institution, at all levels, we must always be aware of our responsibility to guide the young people in becoming nation builders.
Leadership of the institution must be astute in understanding the direction of this country in order to guide the daily operations. As leaders we must take a page out of the book of our Founder H.L. Stoutt and understand that we must be strong, resourceful, and committed. As leaders we too must be involved in problem-solving and displaying the skills of diplomacy to set the appropriate tone for the young people who walk these halls. It is only through such leadership that we will take this college to the next level and define our way to excellence.
We must begin to explore more partnerships with other institutions and organizations both local and overseas to develop training programmes, mentorships and internships for our young people.
I believe that our young people, and you our graduates, are the ones that will have the energy, motivation, new ideas, and sheer gumption to move this country from where we are today, to the country we say we want to become. As a government it is our obligation to continue to support our young people and our mature students who have taken the initiative to re-train themselves so that they can make an even greater impact on this country.
We believe that our education system must prepare our people for all opportunities this nation has to offer. That is why we have already begun work in building a stronger bridge between the College and the secondary schools to ensure that there is a smooth transition. The CXC’s Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Education subjects will be introduced in Grade 12 at the secondary level with expected completion in the first year at HLSCC.
Studies in areas such as Entrepreneurship, Communications Studies, Agricultural Science, and Information Technology will help our young people to participate, not only in the available market but begin to form new industries, provide new prospects for employment and add to the development of a vibrant local economy
We envision the HLSCC, through the Financial Services Institute, being marketed as the premier knowledge centre for the financial services industry in this hemisphere. We have built a tremendous industry over the years and we must continue to build on this foundation. We have the opportunity to become stronger and be seen as the experts well beyond our shores. We must therefore make the changes and do all we can to make this a reality. We must make the hard decisions for this economic pillar to thrive and be successful.
I will remain persistent in my requests for the Financial Services Programme, the Centre for Marine Studies and the Culinary Programme at this institution to be further developed so that they become the flagship programmes for marketing this institution to the region and the world. Over the next four years, I look forward to much more emphasis being placed on these subjects so that they can be aggressively marketed outside of the Virgin Islands.
Moving ahead, this institution must be seen as a place of ideas. We must be ready to position ourselves to become sought after, not only locally but in the region, and indeed internationally for learning and research. In order to raise the profile of the institution, staff must not only be involved in academia but also in research, in the creation of new knowledge which will be important to the development of the Territory.
I have to acknowledge the faculty advisors and students of HLSCC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honour Society, Beta Omicron Sigma Chapter for their efforts in research and developing such a culture amongst our students, which have been recognised for excellence within the international organisation. I hope that as we move forward, many more such opportunities will be explored by both faculty and students.
The College must become that first stop for advice in certain areas of expertise in our country. This is also an opportunity for the college to raise revenue along with the funds it receives from Government. When businesses in the tourism, marine or financial services sectors are thinking of training programmes for their staff, HLSCC must become their first option.
As we build closer ties with our regional institutions and those farther afield, then we become even stronger and are able to enhance the skills of the local faculty as well as offer even more to our students, especially those who find it difficult to leave home.
This institution has enriched the lives of many in this Territory who might not have otherwise had the opportunity for higher education. And we must continuously seek to ensure that for the next 25 and 50 years, this college remains a viable opportunity for the people of the Virgin Islands to enhance our lives through education. So it remains important that as educational practices evolve, as our economy changes, and as the needs of our community also changes, so too must H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.
Today we gather to celebrate with the men and women who have entrusted this institution to help to guide them, reform their ideas and shape them into citizens that will be successful and that will add to the development of this country – the HLSCC Class of 2015.
I want to encourage you to never stop learning. Though today will be a red-letter day in your lives, I want to encourage you to look at education as a process and one that is not always formal in classrooms, but a journey of discovery, self exploration and development of ideas.
Education also gives you the obligation to impact our society in more positive ways. We literally just ended the 2015 General Elections with the swearing in of our government just 24 hours ago. As many have lamented, the campaign season was one that was hard on many fronts.
Graduates, as learned members of our community, I want to challenge you to help to raise the level of discourse among ourselves in this community. I believe that it is through fact based debates and discussions, we have the best chance to bring out the right ideas to really shape a modern society.
Throughout the campaign I was surprised at how easily gossip became facts that shaped the decision of who we would choose to lead our great country. Men and women we all go to church with, our neighbours and friends were called many things, even demons. But what bothered me most is that we continue to allow a very small population of individuals to attempt to reshape who we are via the blogs and treacherous electronic messages.
I want to encourage you to be bold and go out into our communities and make a positive impact by using your voice, your knowledge and your love for this country to declare that the Virgin Islands will not go the way of other countries who callously allow the character of citizens to be scandalized while the real issues facing the country are not adequately ventilated.
Additionally, our country has to reverse the concept that all jobs and opportunities must be had in the public sector. As a country we literally cannot afford it. We need to encourage more of you, members of the class of 2015, to become entrepreneurs and provide new services to our communities for both private individuals and also our government.
The education that the majority of you receive is free and is paid for by the citizens of this country. Many of you will also be the recipients of scholarships to study abroad and it can no longer be enough that you return home to simply get a job. We need you to return with fresh ideas, the ability to work with others to implement those ideas and the ability to critically look at the needs of our economy and develop sustainable businesses to address those needs.
To this end, our government will be funding internships for students that have recently graduated from colleges overseas for two to three years, so that they can gain the experience, develop their ideas and build up their competency to add to the development of a modern Virgin Islands.
Graduates, your graduation today is not just about you earning a new certificate or degree on a path to a better job or higher paycheck. It is also about you making an impact in this community with your knowledge, your critical thinking skills and your ability to persevere and accomplish major tasks. Your graduation is about you becoming a better person and also about you being prepared to make this country a better place.
It was Gordon B. Hinckley that said, “Every good citizen adds to the strength of a nation” and today I encourage you to continue to be good citizens so that the Virgin Islands can continue on a path of progress. It cannot be left to be done solely by any politician or by any government. For us to build a strong and vibrant nation; we need each and every one of you. And it is my hope that your time at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College has prepared you to be good citizens.
With your newfound education you are reminded that it is for you to remain in your communities and work towards uplifting those communities that have nurtured you thus far. Your education should not separate you from the very people and the communities that have supported you along your journey. Your opportunity to be educated should be used to the benefit of all.
As I have consistently done, I remind you that this ceremony does not make you better than an individual who has not gone through formal education. It prepares you with certain skills, but you are reminded that we expect you to be equally involved in all levels of our community. I encourage you to continue to be part of service organisations and help to enhance those organisations that diligently serve our communities with your newfound skills. I admonish you to use your knowledge to the benefit of your community.
Finally graduates, I ask you to join me in celebrating the men and women that helped to get you here today, your parents, family members, friends and the faculty and staff of this great institution.
To the Administration, Faculty and staff, I want to thank you for your continued hard work here at the HLSCC as your contribution to the education system is important. It cannot be said enough that the work of our educators is important to the lives of our people. However, I want to say to you that the work that you do is also important to the livelihood of the Virgin Islands economy. So we thank you for your time and your investment in the lives of these students and we look forward to your investments being realized in a skilled labour force and a thriving economy for our country.
Graduates, I trust that today some of what I have said has caused you to think and begin to understand where we need to go and the important place each of you can play in the success of this Territory. I challenge you today to think about the future of this Territory and the part you will play in helping us to continue our progress and build a modern and thriving Virgin Islands.
I once again offer my sincere congratulations to all of you, Class of 2015 and wish you every success as you continue on your journey – remain grounded, remain strong and ensure that this country remains a place we all want to live in. May God continue to bless you and these beautiful Virgin Islands. Thank you.