Central High School graduates 182

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ST. CROIX - A sea of people converged on Island Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday night to witness the graduates of Central High School's "Ingenious Class of 2014" receive their long-awaited high school diplomas.

In her address to the graduating class, salutatorian Lizbeth Carrasquillo, 18, encouraged her classmates to "focus on where we will be in the next decade and make sure that the word success is a part of what we do."

Success is no stranger to Lizbeth. The teen has placed at the top of her class since elementary school, a feat for which she credits her work ethic and strong faith.

"My blueprint for success is striving for my goals, not giving up and having determination," she said. "I do my study alone in my room where I can fully concentrate without any distractions and interferences.

"Christ's love and humble way of living, and handling problems is the greatest and best-taught example for us to emulate," Lizbeth added.

However, Lizbeth's success did not come without hardship.

"The hardship I had to overcome was not having my parents there to raise me up, as every child has," she said. "But thank God, and my grandparents, I was able to overcome this obstacle."

Lizbeth was raised by Luz and Wilfredo QuiƱones from birth, who she said "helped me reach where I am today."

In a sometimes emotional speech, valedictorian Ryan Shaw implored his classmates to form and maintain friendships, something he recently came to embrace.

"Our most important purpose in life is to form bonds," he said. "Keep friends who have future ambitions close, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Team work is becoming more and more important to succeed in our everyday lives."

With that, Ryan said now that he and his classmates are high school graduates, "it's up to us to make our parents' investments in us worthwhile."

Like Lizbeth, Ryan has endured his own painful life experiences; however, he said he has managed to remain resilient.

"The only significant obstacle I can think of would be the passing of my father during my first year in high school," he said. "As time passed, I gradually recovered."

Central High School is in the process of recovering from a major setback in the spring. Since March, the school has closed its doors and held classes in a double-session arrangement at Educational Complex because of a noxious odor from Central High's wastewater and storm drain system that sickened students.

Acknowledging the closure, Principal Janasee Sinclair, said, "It has been an extraordinary year for Central High School." She then urged graduates to continue to exhibit school pride.

"As you evolve into your individual lives, you will always be a Carib; wear it with pride," she said.

The evening's keynote address was given by Dr. Kendall Griffith, chief executive officer of Lois Hospital and graduate of Central High's class of 1984.

Collectively, the class of 2014 received more than $6.5 million in scholarships, grants and awards from universities and other sources. In the fall, Ryan plans to attend either La Roche College in Pittsburgh, or the University of the Virgin Islands to study biology. Lizbeth said she is keeping her options open, as well. In the fall, she may attend the University of the Virgin Islands to major in business administration or Keiser University in Lakeland, Fla., to study radiology technology.

At the end of her speech, Lizbeth roared, "the tassel was worth the hassle," to which graduates and all those gathered responded with resounding applause.

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