Dozens receive CTE certificates on St. Thomas

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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Education Department's Division of Career and Technical Education held its first St. Thomas certification ceremony Saturday evening, coinciding with the ceremony for graduates of the Raphael O. Wheatley Skill Center.

"In this economy, you are leaps and bounds ahead," St. Thomas-St. John Insular Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry told the students.

All of the students received their certifications in an array of fields - from finance to auto mechanic repair to culinary arts.

The students in the CTE program attended Charlotte Amalie High School and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and decided in their freshman year that they wanted to take career-track electives, according to Linda Sibilly, supervisor of the Wheatley Skill Center.

A similar program exists on St. Croix but it has held a ceremony for years, Sibilly said.

"We just stuck the certificate in there as though it didn't matter," Smith-Barry said, noting that CTE certificates used to be placed alongside the high school diplomas in the past, during students' respective schools' graduations.

The students in the adult education program are out of high school but they too studied specialty areas, from medical billing to cosmetology to phlebotomy.

In all, 126 students walked across the stage Saturday at the ceremony, which was held at Charlotte Amalie High School auditorium.

"They've given you the hammer. They've given you the nails. Now it's up to you to build your home," said the keynote speaker of the evening, Shamir Joseph, guest relations manager at the Westin Resort on St. John.

Joseph was a 2008 graduate of the CTE program, though he said he was very different at the time compared to who he has become today.

"If I texted God, and said where would I be now and he told me I'd be speaking here, I'd say, 'Now, God, you're joking,'" Joseph said, noting that he used to be shy and was not at the top of the class. "You don't have to graduate the valedictorian, the salutatorian. You don't have to graduate in the top 10. That doesn't dictate your future."

Students received a wealth of other advice, including some that came from popular rap artists. CTE board Vice Chairwoman Ilene Garner quoted Jay-Z and Joseph used a line from Drake to motivate the students.

The ceremony also featured performances from graduates, including an interpretive dance from Briana Benjamin and a song from Juliana Olivacce. At the ceremony's end, graduates gathered with their friends and family for food and beverages.

For some students, the certificates were testaments to what they were going to pursue career-wise.

"I like helping people," said Ann Julius, who received a certificate for the medical administrative assistant program. "My mother, she was sick in bed for several years."

For others, the certificates were just the first steps of choosing a career-track.

"I'm a people person," said Shakira Cedeno, a Charlotte Amalie High School graduate who went into the hotel training/culinary arts program.

Cedeno said she did not realize how difficult the culinary industry would be, and now realizes she is better fit for hospitality.

"Cooking itself is kind of tricky," she said. "You don't realize how much work it is."

For more information about the CTE program, or the skills center, visit

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