310 graduate from Charlotte Amalie High School

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ST. THOMAS - The University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center was awash in a sea of blue and gold as 310 graduates received their diplomas at Charlotte Amalie High School's 84th commencement exercises Sunday night. One of the largest classes to graduate from the school, the Class of 2014 made a big impression in numbers as well as achievements.

"This class is outstanding," said senior counselor Sheila Blyden. "They are very focused and committed to forwarding their education."

The class has been pledged $3.5 million in scholarships, grants and awards from universities, individual, businesses, civic organizations and more.

Valedictorian Sheila Joseph will attend Brown University, where she was awarded a scholarship valued at more than $240,000. She plans to study biomedical engineering, with an eye towards cancer research.

Joseph was the recipient of several awards this year, including Student of the Year, 2014 Moot Court winner, a National Achievement scholarship, UVI Chemistry essay winner and more.

"I'm excited about graduation," she said before the ceremony. "In one word: Finally."

Salutatorian Sherika Jacobs will attend UVI to study civil engineering in a 3-2 program, with 3 years at UVI and 2 at either the University of Florida or Columbia. She was awarded a full four-year scholarship and was the recipient of the Karence DeCosta Memorial Scholarship from the Music Department.

"I want to give back to my community," Jacobs said. "I plan to come back and make a difference. I'm just ready for the next experience and ready to get into my major."

Although they had a lot of fond memories, particularly during senior week, it wasn't all fun and games.

Both Joseph and Jacobs agree that using their time wisely was a major challenge.

"We had a lot of projects happening at the same time, so time management and getting everything in at the same time was difficult," said Joseph.

Jacobs wholeheartedly agreed. "I was in a lot of extra curricular activities and doing college research, so having to juggle it all and still maintain my grades was a challenge."

In speeches by both Joseph and keynote speaker Justin Perry, a graduate of the class of 1989, the focus was on the importance of failure.

"Dream big and live big," urged Joseph. "Dare to fail, because failure is just a learning experience. No one is successful without failure."

Of course, no one gets as far as graduation without a little help. Both students took time to thank parents, family, friends, faculty and school administration for their support. "I thank my parents, the teachers and counselors. Everyone works really hard, and I couldn't have made it without them," said Joseph.

Jacobs had words of advice for next year's graduates.

"Don't get distracted," she warned. "Don't give in to peer pressure. Balance your time. That's a very helpful skill when you go on to college."

"Good luck and have fun," Jacobs told her fellow graduates. "This is the rest of our lives. Get it right."

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