CUL DE SAC, Sint Maarten - Forty pupils graduated from All Children’s Education (ACE) Foundation school during a celebratory reception held at the St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation office last Sunday.
Twenty nine of the young graduates were from the school’s primary section and 11 were from the pilot humanitarian kindergarten section. The primary school graduates included pupils who sat the Foundation Based Education (FBE) Exit Exams and some who sat the placement tests to enter high school at various levels.
The reception, held in collaboration with the St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation, opened with pupils paying gratitude to their parents by presenting them with flowers, while parents and some volunteers put on the graduation caps on their child’s head.
Sixth grader Anelia Vincent, whose family lost all their possessions when their home was gutted by fire in Cole Bay last year, was named valedictorian for achieving the highest marks amongst the graduating batch. Her accomplishment despite her challenges was lauded.
Vincent encouraged her peers to remain on the right track and reach for the stars.
ACE Director Claire Elshot said she was proud of the accomplishments made by graduating batch, though she noted that some pupils could have performed better. She told parents that irrespective of whether their child had been admitted to St. Maarten Academy’s academic or Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education (PSVE) section, they should be proud of them. Students in the PSVE stream, she said, can move over to the academic stream if they work hard. She encouraged pupils to continue to focus on their school work during their future educational pursuits.
Guest speakers Key to Freedom founder Elvison Adamus and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) representative Inspector Leonard both urged pupils to remain focussed on their educational goals and not to get distracted by drugs and/or alcohol. Leonard also told pupils that law enforcement needed them and they should consider a career in this area.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said this was the first graduation ceremony that she had attended in which gratitude had been shown to parents. She spoke about the importance of ensuring that all children receive a fair education and the key role this play in the development of St. Maarten as a country.
“As a Government and a people, we collectively believe that children should never ever suffer because of the circumstances their parents face. We should be grateful as a community to offer children the education that they deserve and it is important that we all work together to make St. Maarten a better place for all of us and a better place starts with an educated population,” the prime minister said in her inspiring speech.
“We need to ensure that in today’s world, our children understand what it means to be a member of a multicultural society. We need to have children understand that in today’s world it is peace which will see us through in the coming decades... Ever so often, we should look back and see from where we have come and where we should strive to move forward as a country, developing St. Maarten and its children into the country and citizens it deserves.”
St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation Commissioner Sandra Cheung reminded pupils how hard their teachers and parents worked to ensure that their best interests are catered to.
She told pupils there is a long path that they still had to travel in their educational journey and encouraged them to always do their best. She said not everyone can become the Prime Minister or Director of an education, alluding to two of the guests in attendance, and noted that these officials will need persons to work with and around them.
The graduating sixth grade class was presented with their certificates and graduation photos, while a number of pupils were recognised for their outstanding performance in the various subject areas. Youngsters from the kindergarten section were also presented with graduating certificates and special awards for various purposes.
The ceremony also featured entertainment from the graduating classes as well as from Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers, who turned out in numbers to assist in all areas of the ceremony in the spirit of love, kindness and giving.
Tzu Chi also presented tokens of appreciation to the school’s teachers.