Remarks by Honourable Sharie B. de Castro
Minister for Education, Youth Affairs and Sports
Elmore Stoutt High School Graduation
June, 22nd 2023
Esteemed faculty members, distinguished guests, proud parents, and most importantly, the resilient Elmore Stoutt High School Class of 2023, good afternoon.
Today, I stand before you with immense pride and admiration for the remarkable journey you have undertaken. As I thought on what to say today, I considered telling you a story to inspire you. However, I chose to use your story, to inspire us all.
Your high school years have been a testament to the power of resilience and the unwavering spirit that resides within each one of you. Let us reflect. In 2017, right before you began your high school journey, nature unleashed its fury in the form of the August Floods and then Hurricanes Irma and Maria and changed the course of your high school experience forever.
These Category 5 monsters descended upon our islands, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. The familiar landscapes we once knew were transformed into scenes of destruction and disrepair. It was a time of catastrophe and fear —a time when dreams seemed distant and hope felt fragile.
Yet, from the midst of this chaos, a remarkable spirit emerged. The indomitable strength of the Virgin Islands community was evident, as neighbors became family and strangers became friends. Together, we rebuilt, brick by brick, and heart by heart. We turned tragedy into triumph, and disrepair into determination.
Through it all, you, the graduating class of 2023, stood tall amidst the wreckage. You refused to let the storms define you. Instead, you channeled your resilience and determination to rebuild not only your lives but also the foundations of your education. You proved that adversity could not extinguish the flame of knowledge burning within you.
And then, just a few years later as the winds of the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, they found their way to our shores, disrupting the very fabric of our lives. It was a time when school bells fell silent, and the vibrant halls of the Elmore Stoutt High School stood empty. The classroom walls were replaced by computer screens, and the joy of face-to-face interactions was replaced by pixelated faces on video calls.
Yet, in the face of this adversity, you adapted. You embraced the challenges head-on, exhibiting a resilience beyond measure. The virtual realm became your new frontier, and you navigated it with courage, determination, and an unwavering commitment to your education. You mastered the art of self-discipline, turning living rooms into classrooms and bedrooms into sanctuaries of knowledge. Despite the physical distance, you remained connected, you supported each other and showcased the strength that can be found in unity.
And today, as we gather to celebrate your graduation, like a beacon of hope rising from the ashes, you sit here in caps and gowns and stoles, as a testament to your unwavering, resilient spirit.
Due to the completion of the Elmore Stoutt High School Redevelopment Project you were finally able to experience some semblance of a "normal" high school experience. In January of this year, you stepped through the doors of these new buildings, feeling the warmth of camaraderie and the joy of reconnection. You no longer had to settle for fragmented days or virtual interactions. Instead, you experienced the joy of a full day of in-person learning—the sound of laughter echoing through the corridors, the shared moments of discovery in the classroom, and the friendships forged in the truest sense.
Class of 2023, you have journeyed through turbulent waters, but you have emerged stronger, wiser, and more resilient than ever before. The challenges you have faced have molded you into extra-ordinary individuals, equipped with the tools necessary to make a profound impact in these Virgin Islands.
As you prepare to embark on the next chapter of your lives, always remember the lessons learnt during these transformative years. Carry with you that spirit of resilience, the power of unity, and the appreciation for the strength that lies within each and every single one of you. Let your experiences serve as a constant reminder that you possess the fortitude to overcome any obstacle and the tenacity to achieve greatness.
To the parents, principals, teachers, and mentors who have guided and supported these incredible individuals, thank you for your unwavering dedication. Your steadfast belief in their potential has played a vital role in the success that we see here today.
And to the graduating class of 2023, as you stand here on the cusp of a new beginning, know that the Virgin Islands community stands behind you. Your resilience has inspired me, it has inspired us all and we have no doubt that you will shape a future filled with promise and possibility.
Remember that education is not merely the acquisition of knowledge; it is the spark that ignites change. Change is necessary. Always remember, you can’t get change if you give exact but if you give more, you get change. Change is the key that opens doors of opportunity and empowers you to create a brighter tomorrow.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that as I close you help me to acknowledge the definition of resilience, the Elmore Stoutt High School, Class of 2023!
Please give them a round of applause.
God bless you all and thank you.