|Class Speaker Jaecena Howell for UVI's Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix|
Graduates Resilient After Storms of Life…
The University of the Virgin Islands celebrated many firsts in this year’s commencement ceremonies held on the St. Thomas Campus and the Albert A Sheen Campus on May 17, and May 18, respectively.
For the first time in UVI’s history there were graduates from UVI’s extension campus on St. Maarten, five students graduated with Masters of Arts in Education degrees, two students graduated with doctoral degrees and 17 students graduated with Masters of Marine and Environmental Studies Degrees.(See Link here) Likewise, 36 students graduated with Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees, 12 of which graduated on the Albert A Sheen Campus as the first cohort of nurses to do so in the university’s history.
UVI’s president Dr. David Hall described this year’s commencement ceremonies as ‘sacred moments.’ Citing the challenges faced by the University—especially the students of the graduating class of 2018—after the passage of two category five hurricanes, Hall reminded the graduates that the metaphorical winds from the storm reflected their lives.
“We may not know all the hurdles you confronted and overcame but use the winds as a metaphor for your life,” Dr Hall said. “You will be resilient after they pass.”
“No adversity can break you, no storm can wash you away, the work you do in the world should always elevate our species,” Glover said. “Never forget the courage and fortitude it took for you to succeed.”
Che-Raina Warner, class speaker on the St Thomas Campus in her speech beckoned the graduating class to follow their dreams.
|Che-Raina Warner - St. Thomas Class Speaker|
“Today’s graduation is all the proof you need that if you apply yourself, and you strive bravely towards your aspirations, you can achieve it,” said Warner. “So, I say let the strength of your desire give force and momentum to your every step.”
Warner reminded that graduates that their resilience is what brought them through their final year.
“We matched the gale force winds of Irma and Maria with our own relentless forces of resilience. Class of 2018, we are the real survivors,” said Warner. “We were not [going to] give up, we worked harder because we had to make it.”
The theme of resilience continued on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, where class speaker Jaecena Howell, thanked UVI for preparing the class to weather the storms of their lives.
“We are stronger than we think, the hurricanes did not deter us from achieving our goals,” Howell said. “All those nights of doing homework in the dark with flashlights and candles, with no internet at home, no water, no electricity to iron our clothes, all of our hard work paid off.”
Howell ended her address with a presentation of a check from the graduating class of 2018 to be given to a first-generation student at the University of the Virgin Islands. The cheque for $1,774.94 was presented to Dr. Hall and Dr. Henry Smock chairman of the UVI Board of Trustees, by Howell and Dwane Hendrickson, senior class president.
More graduate success stories
Ashley Goodwin: A Celebration of Firsts
Dr. Ashley Goodwin always wanted to pursue her doctorate and recalls her parents referring to her as Dr. Goodwin after she completed her associates degree. According to Goodwin, this planted a seed in her to further her education.
She was met by a professor at a creativity conference who encouraged her to keep applying to programs that she was passionate about and unleashed her creativity. He told her about the UVI doctorate program and the rest is history!
“It was one best decisions I ever made in my life,” Ashley said. “I am so happy I didn’t get into the program I first applied to. I used the disappointment to fuel me to go forward. I met people from all over the world. I would have never even thought to visit the VI had it not been for the University.”
Goodwin’s dissertation, entitled: “Exploring cognitive styles to examine explicit perceptions and implicit theories within teams”, describes the way in which we recognize uniqueness, and help teams to work better.
Goodwin completed the three-year program in two years and now is planning for life after her doctoral studies.
“I’m looking for another challenge to conquer to do more and accomplish” said Ashely. “I am so grateful to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Ashley Goodwin is a first-generation college graduate, the first African-American female, and first person in her community to earn a Doctorate of this field as it is the first of its kind and the first PhD program at UVI.
“I’m still in awe that I have seen this accomplishment all the way through,” said Goodwin. “I’m a woman who sought out to achieve the impossible, and come out a champion, that just goes to show that we are all unstoppable if we just believe!”
Goodwin, a Western New Yorker, has always been committed to success, she earned her Associates degree in media communications, then later a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Communications and a Master’s Degree in Creative Studies.
Husband, Wife & Son Earn Degrees in UVI Class of 2018
Carlos Jr., Gabriel, and Irene Ramos are among the university’s historic firsts celebrated in the 2018 commencement exercises which took place on May 18.
|Carlos Jr., Gabriel, and Irene Ramos|
The mother, husband and son trio crossed the stage at the Albert A Sheen Campus where Carlos Jr. and Irene received a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in educational technology while Gabriel Ramos earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.
“... [My husband and I] planned to do it together,” Irene said. “We presented our pieces at the same time. We should have graduated in fall 2017, however as my work at the registrar’s office became more hectic, we delayed our graduation and planned to graduate in Spring 2018 with our son.”
Their son, Gabriel, first enrolled in the university’s three-two engineering program, but soon shifted his focus after he completed his first physics course. Gabriel now has an extensive knowledge of programing, software, java, and servers. While at UVI, he participated in the Emerging Caribbean Scientists program in Norfolk Virginia in June 2015.
For Irene, who works in the Registrar’s office on St. Croix at UVI, and her husband Carols Jr., who works at Limetree Bay Terminals on St. Croix, it was especially challenging to complete the degrees considering their work schedules.
“Because we worked it was hectic, we spent many nights up doing research, writing our thesis, managing our work schedules, and our home,” Ramos said. “My husband’s time was limited because of his job, our professors worked with his schedule and helped him to ensure he completed his degree.”
The success story for the Ramos family does not end here. The couple are planning to continue their education even further while Gabriel, who graduated cum laude, is currently preparing for job interviews.
“We are happy it is over, my husband and I are thinking of doing our PhDs in a technology related field, but because of our schedules we are looking into online programs,” said Irene.
Three members of a family graduating at the same time is a historical first for the University.
Dwane Addison Hendrickson: A Lesson in Determination
Dwane began UVI in Fall 2015. When he first moved from Nevis he was a commuter student and anxious to begin his journey at UVI having been the first in his family to attend a university.
He first began working as an assistant to the student government association president, and later became a member of many clubs and organizations on campus including the St. Kitts Nevis Association as well as the Golden Key Honor Society.
Dwane became very active on campus as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund student ambassador, hosting different events and working with the residence life office where he later became a resident assistant.
|Dwane Addison Hendrickson|
Fall 2017 began what Dwane now describes as a tumultuous period in his academic and personal journey.
“During the hurricane period it was my first semester being a resident assistant and I had to educate international students about hurricanes and ensure they were safe while worrying about my grandmother, school, and other responsibilities—it was one of the worst semesters for me emotionally,” said Hendrickson.
Dwane left St. Croix and returned to Nevis to be by his grandmother’s side as her condition worsened.
“I immediately left school to be by her side and take care of her full-time 24 hours,” Hendrickson said. “I neglected school work for an entire semester as her passing was too difficult for me. Upon my return in January, I had to push myself to ensure that I completed all of the courses in one week.”
According to Dwane his final semester was no walk in the park for him. However, he was able to persevere through his personal mantra EDGE which states that one must be enthusiastic and determined about what one wants to achieve in life, show gratitude and engage in entertainment—have fun, share in laughter and love.
Post-graduation, Dwane plans to obtain his accreditation as a chartered accountant and later attend Queen Mary University of London to pursue graduate studies in accountancy, management and international relations.
Dwane graduated on the Albert A Sheen Campus with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, Cum Laude.
Rae-Dawn Richardson: This Mommy Graduated Summa Cum Laude
Rae-Dawn Richardson, originally from St. Kitts began UVI in 2015. Like any other first timer at college, Richardson was edgy about her new journey at UVI. For her, it was the first time she had to move away from her home and travel alone.
For the most part while at UVI everything went well, Rae-Dawn had adjusted into college well and earned A’s in almost all of her classes. She became involved on campus and was a member of the executive board for the UVI Business 360 umbrella for National Association of Black Accountants and National Association State Board of Accountancy. She was also the treasurer for the Alpha Mu Gamma Foreign Language Honor Society and assistant treasurer for the Psychology Student Association.
However, her seemingly smooth transition into UVI soon became a period of discomfort and uneasiness when she became pregnant.
Richardson began to worry about where she would live on St Thomas during her pregnancy and how she would support a new-born baby while still a college student. She was very worried about her financial state.
Her worries soon diminished as she was allowed to stay on campus up until the birth of her child in April 2017.
Richardson praised her amazing support system for the help provided during her pregnancy. “My best friend, friends, family, roommates and my boyfriend were really there for me,” said Richardson. “My best friend would wake me every morning so I wouldn’t be late for class, my family would bring me meals every few days and everyone would call and check up quite often. I had awesome friends who ensured that I was always up-to-date with all assignments and class information the few times I could not make it to class. I could tell they were really concerned about me. All of my friends carried an extra snack or food with them when I was around and pushed me to succeed no matter what. I really had nothing to worry about.”
During her pregnancy, Richardson said she learned how to manage her time.
“I had to ensure that I was well-rested, ate well and still maintain the responsibilities of being a student,” said Richardson. “I had to adjust my mindset and remind myself that it will only be for a time.”
One week after giving birth to her baby, Richardson attended the academic awards ceremony where she received an award as the best female of the year in the school of business, accounting faculty award and recognition by the Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.
Richardson graduated on the St Thomas Campus with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Accounting with a 3.96 GPA. She intends to return to St Kitts to seek employment.
“I am not encouraging students to get pregnant, but sometimes in life you will have ups and down and obstacles, but your support system will play a huge and supportive role,” Richardson said. “Always try your best to turn a bad situation or destruction into something positive and one way or the other you will get through.”
UVI Family Supports Dream of Graduate—Thank You UVI
Shamara Garnett became a teenage mother at the age of 18 while she was still at the Charlotte Amalie High School on St Thomas; though challenging, she was determined to continue to further her education. Garnett enrolled at UVI several years ago as a part-time student while working for the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) during the day.
As a part-time student, she took semesters off from time to time. Garnett, who studied hospitality management, would often use her lunch hour to attend panel discussions organized by her program. According to Garnett, as a part-time student it was often very difficult to participate in many of the events at UVI. Eventually she decided to leave her job at WAPA in 2015, after attending a panel discussion with the Wyndham Resorts where she was hired on the spot as an administrator coordinator II at Margaritaville on St. Thomas.
After the hurricanes in 2017, through Garnett’s job with Wyndham Resorts she and her son, K’Vonte Kishawn Dowe, relocated to Orlando Florida where she worked at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. She wanted her brother to mentor her son, who she later enrolled at Lake Nona High School.
While in the throws of adjusting to her new life in Florida for her and her son, Garnett was concerned about how she would be able to complete her degree at UVI. Garnett made a pact with her son that they will both graduate in the Class of 2018.
Garnett returned to St. Thomas on January 31, 2018 and began registering for classes. On February 3, 2018, Garnett later learned that her 18-year-old son, Dowe, was murdered. The news devastated her and left her in shock up until today.
“Everything went crumbling down,” said Garnett. “I had to leave the island the following Monday and return to Florida to get his body. I had to deal with detectives and funeral homes. I even saw when my son’s body arrived in St. Thomas. I watched from the lawn at UVI as the American Airlines flight landed at the airport. If people only knew what I was going through they would be in awe.”
Though devastated about losing her only son, Garnett still pursued her degree. It often meant belting out tears in classes, or during tutoring sessions. Garnett spent her mornings and breaks between classes at the cemetery visiting her slain son's grave.
“Everything I did was for my son. I got him at 18, he died at 18 and we were supposed to graduate in 2018 together,” said Garnett. “I pushed myself through UVI to reach the finish line I wanted to show my son that education is the key. I was showing him that this is the way. For my last semester I took six classes. I wanted us to celebrate together.”
She graduated on the St. Thomas Campus with a Bachelors of Art in Hospitality and Tourism Management and later collected her son’s diploma at the graduation at Lake Nona High School in Florida.
“Through it all the staff at UVI assisted me, they were very compassionate,” Garnett said. “They came to my son’s funeral and represented. UVI’s staff is phenomenal, they go above and beyond to help students.”
Garnett is looking to further her education in Virgin Islands Culture and Caribbean history. Shamara wants other teenage mothers to know that becoming pregnant at an early age does not deter you from achieving your goals.