St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center issues 259 certificates

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ST. CROIX - The St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center issued certificates of completion to 259 students Sunday during the center's 19th annual certification ceremony held at Educational Complex.

The students, 92 of whom were enrolled in the center's adult evening classes, finished coursework in a variety of career technical programs.

According to Principal Willard John, obtaining technical certification will give students an edge above non-certified counterparts. Assistant principal, Joseph Schrader agreed, saying that today's employers are in search of "skilled and schooled" candidates to fill open positions.

Jocelyn Velasquez, 18, who achieved first honors recognition, received a certificate in architectural drafting. Velasquez said she feels "excited" about her accomplishment.

"I am proud and just happy to be graduating and being certified in the course of architecture," she said.

However, the teen admitted that the coursework was challenging.

Velasquez praised her architecture instructor, Larry Francis, for providing the motivation she needed.

"It was something different," she said. "It was kind of difficult at first, but my teacher helped support us and taught us very well."

"He was very encouraging; he was always supportive," she said. "He helped us in any questions we needed."

Pedro Estien, 17, achieved second honors and received certification in business computer information systems.

Like Velasquez, Estien praised his instructor for helping him succeed.

"My teacher was very positive; he was very encouraging," Estien said. "He always helped us in anything we needed to do."

One of the evening's highlights was the keynote address from chef Digby Stridiron, a Career and Technical Education Center graduate who was recently named V.I. Culinary Ambassador by the V.I. Tourism Department and Chef of the Year by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

In his passionate address to the graduates, Stridiron encouraged them to "take in the moment" and to "work hard for what you want."

In addition, Stridiron said students should dream big, but never forget the virtues of local culture and cuisine.

"Never let anyone hinder you from your potential, but always be proud of where you are from," he said.

And to help one youngster fulfill her dream of pursuing a career in the culinary arts, Stridiron awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Kaylisha Jarris, who will attend the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt., this fall.

Velasquez's next stop is Drury University in Springfield, Mo., where she will study architecture in the fall. She received a dean's scholarship award from the university.

Estien will attend the University of the Virgin Islands to study computer information systems and eventually take advantage of the university's study abroad program. He has received grant and scholarship awards from the university.

In the center's evening program, Ann-Merrie Hendrickson and Laurie Samuel both achieved first honors, and received certification in commercial baking and cake decorating. Sasha Carr achieved second honors and received certification in cosmetology.

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