Charlotte Amalie High School Class of 2013 Charlotte Amalie High School adds 274 alumni

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ST. THOMAS ­- Speakers at the 83rd annual Charlotte Amalie High School commencement ceremony Sunday wove together cheeky anecdotes about school life with sober reflections on what makes a person truly successful.

In their blue gowns and gold sashes, the graduates also took in cheers from jubilant family and friends who packed the stands at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center.

CAHS Principal Carmen Howell praised the class of 2013 for achieving standardized test scores as juniors that made the school the only high school in the territory to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress for 2011-2012. She also touted the graduating class' $2.9 million in scholarships as evidence of their excellence.

The crowd applauded after Howell announced that, in defiance of national and local trends of higher drop out rates among high school boys than girls, 114, or 42 percent, of the graduates were young men.

Before the ceremony, Carr Forbes said he was exceptionally proud of himself and his son, Kwame Forbes, who bucked a lot of peer pressure, especially in junior high, to achieve high grades and get into Xavier University in Louisiana.

"These guys have a lot of pressure on them," he said. "I really had to tell my son that it was okay to pursue his academic goals."

Also, Howell said, 114 of the graduates were honors students, and 60 of those were members of the National Honor Society.

Reflecting on the school year, she cited numerous examples of student achievement, including how the Junior ROTC battalion swept up first place finishes in all seven events at the Annual Inter-Island Drill Competition and how Josae Martin advanced to the finals in the 2013 National Poetry Out Loud Competition.

Six student athletes have been recruited by major universities for their talents and had accrued a total of $560,000 in sports scholarships, Howell said.

"The ever-excelling, multi-talented class of 2013 has produced outstanding scholars, athletes, artists and everything else in between," she said.

Keynote speaker William Smith Jr., a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Stanford University graduate and member of the CAHS graduating class of 1993, acknowledged the fathers in the room, then shared humorous anecdotes about raising his daughter, now in 8th grade. When she struggled with algebra, Smith said, he suggested she dig up old quizzes from the "tornado-ravaged" mess of her room and take them over and over again until she achieved an A average.

His words of advice to the graduates were drawn from his patient, tough-love parenting style, and Smith's overall message was that persistence is the key to success in all realms of life.

"You've got to choose a path and go do it. You've got to choose a school and just do it. You've got to do it to get the grades. You may have to just get a job before you get a career to pay the bills; yea, you really go to do it. What happens if your family and friends don't support you? Do it anyway. What happens if you feel lonely? You've got to do it anyway," Smith said. "Do it and do it and do it until the job gets done."

Salutatorian T.J. Thompson offered sage words about the value of character to his fellow graduates.

"It is okay to quit certain things," he said. "It is okay to quit procrastinating. It is okay to quit complaining about the unfairness of life. It is okay to quit relying on your parents. It is okay to quit being ignorant."

Thompson plans to attend King University in Tennessee in the fall. He also plans to join the Air Force and become a judge advocate general.

In a speech that was as much a punchy send up of cell phone snatching teachers, ill-informed, sniping, anti-Muslim peers, and the exhausting all-nighters required in the lead up to final exams as it was carefully crafted advice about achieving, Valedictorian Sadiyah Ali told the members of her class that hard work had gotten them to this point in their lives and that they deserved to revel in their achievement.

"The real world is our playground now," she proclaimed. "Our diploma is our ticket to the world, and no one else can say otherwise."

Ali plans to get a degree in biology from Binghamton University in New York, then attend medical school.

- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email Sadiyah Ali

Salutatorian: T.J. Thompson

Number of graduates: 274

Number going to college: 189

Number going into the military: 35

Number going into the workforce: 29

Colleges attending: Barry University; Baylor University; Binghamton University; Clark Atlanta University; Iona College; Jacksonville University; Johnson and Wales University; King University; UM College; Lincoln University; Miami University; Monroe College; North Carolina A&T; Pratt Institute; Spelman College; St. John's University; Tuskegee Univesity; Universal Technical Institute; University of San Diego; University of Tampa; University of the Virgin Islands; Vaughn College.

Total scholarships awarded: $2.9 million

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