Invest in either a digital or old-fashioned paper day planner, Julius E. Sprauve School Vale-dictorian Jonté Samuel advised the crowd during the school’s 41st annual ninth grade promotional exercises on Monday evening, June 11, at the Westin Resort and Villas.
“Invest in a planner, whether it is electronic or a book,” said Samuel. “It has helped me countless times to keep track of assignments and prioritize what I have to do.”
Family members, JESS staff and well wishers packed the Westin ballroom to cheer on the 20 graduates who will go on to high school next year. Walking in to the tunes of Echo People and the Ceremonial Brass Ensemble, the young ladies were elegant in white dresses while the young men looked dashing in their dark suits.
Look Within for Success
With Samuel as the class valedictorian, Afrika Anthony was the salutatorian, and Kendra Boyd, Kyla Frett, Danella Joseph, Ryan Morton and Razzilee Oquendo graduated with honors, rounding off the accomplished class.
A number of invited guests were in attendance, including Senator at Large Carmen Wesselhoft, St. John Administrator Leona Smith, Board of Education members and Department of Education officials.
While all of the guests delivered inspiring speeches, JESS Principal Mario Francis spoke from the heart to the students he has watched grow up over the years telling them to look within to find everything they need to succeed.
“Within you is everything you need to be successful and follow your dream,” Francis told the promotees. “We are not here to give you a dream, but to help you actualize your own dream.”
While life might not always be easy, students should persevere, Francis explained.
“The road is long,” he said. “The road winds and it’s not easy — it’s difficult. But you have within you all you need.”
“Believe in yourself and listen to the counsel of wise ones,” said the JESS principal.
There is an important difference between sight and vision, DOE Insular Superintendent Lisa Hassell-Forde explained.
Sight, Vision Are Different
“Sight is a gift and something we sometimes take for granted,” said Hassell-Forde. “Vision is more important. You will need it if you are going to be successful.”
“Vision is the ability to look beyond what the eyes can see,” she added.
Students should think about where they see themselves in the future, and plan to be life-long learners, according to Hassell-Forde.
“Your brains are always working,” said the insular superintendent. “Plan to learn all the time and read constantly. Open your mind to new experiences and don’t be afraid if someone moves you out of your comfort zone — it can be a good thing.”
“We are counting on you to be successful because we recognize that you are our future,” Hassell-Forde said.
DOE Acting Assistant Commis-sioner Anya Sebastian had the promotees join the action, repeating a pledge.
“The key to my high school success is to schedule my priorities, and balance my academic, extracurricular work and social activities,” the JESS graduating ninth graders repeated after Sebastian.
The multi-talented Samuel entertained the crowd playing “Pink Panther” on his saxophone before Anthony delivered a moving and inspirational speech.
Choices Affect Others
“A long time ago someone very important to me told me the choices you make not only affect you, but affect others around you,” said Anthony. “As far back as I remember I always wanted to do the right thing because I wanted to please my father and my grandparents.”
When Anthony’s father, Delroy Anthony, found out about her salutatorian honor, he was so excited he phoned everyone they knew and even called a popular St. Croix radio show, she explained.
“My father was so excited it was almost like he earned the honors,” said Anthony.
The second honor student also had some advice for her fellow students.
“You must always pay attention and don’t argue with your teacher,” Anthony said. “Value all lessons taught by teachers, they are all priceless.”
Anthony fought back tears, saying goodbye to her classmates.
“In our class we are like a family,” she said. “I will miss you all.”
Classmates Inspired Valedictorian
Samuel also credited his fellow ninth graders as his inspiration to succeed.
“All these students challenge me to do my best,” said Samuel. “I thank my classmates for the competition. When you do well, I am motivated to work even harder.”
The entire staff at JESS, both in and out of the classroom, and the community at large contributed to his success, according to Samuel.
“The paraprofessionals, office staff, nurse, cooks, librarians, custodial and other support staff have all impacted our experience here at JESS,” he said. “Those elementary years at Guy Benjamin School gave me the foundation needed and the eagerness to learn that I brought with me here to Junior High.”
Thanks To Extended Family
“I am eternally grateful to my extended family that includes the Emmaus Moravian Church, the St. John School of the Arts, the Coral Bay community and the general St. John community,” said Samuel.
Samuel also thanked his family for their support.
“My family has always played a major supportive role in my life — whether it was my brother telling me to do my homework first, or reviewing for a test or quiz with my mother over breakfast,” said the valedictorian.
“My father has always provided countless books for me to read and provided an environment where education was an important focus,” he added.
In addition to sharing the importance of having a planner, Samuel offered advice to his fellow students.
“Nothing Replaces Hard Work”
“We are not all naturally gifted in all academic areas or even quick to grasp certain concepts,” said Samuel. “Given this, I have discovered that nothing replaces discipline and hard work. The ability to do what you know you have to do and the willingness to put in the time and energy has always worked for me.”
Samuel kept things light, and didn’t have to hold back tears.
“So…this is not good by, but so long, ‘till we meet again in 2010,” said Samuel
Danella Bridgewater, Irah Christian, Deneisha Davis, Willis Fahie Jr., Ryan Francis, Ronald Jackson, Jamien Harley, Rochelle Moses, Tanjiyah Potter, J’moi Powell, Shawn Raimer Jr., Karina Simon and Lee Thomas Jr. also graduated from the ninth grade at JESS.