St. Croix UVI grads look to build their community


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ST. CROIX - The more than 120 members of the University of the Virgin Islands' Class of 2014 - touted as talented, resilient and extraordinary - graduated Sunday, beaming with pride as they received degrees during the 50th anniversary commencement ceremony on the Albert Sheen Campus.

Even as they made their way toward the large double tents on the university's north lawn, graduates welcomed loud applause and screams from the crowd of friends and family members. Air horns, whistles and bells were heard throughout the crowd in support of graduates as they walked into the ceremony.

Class speaker Allison De Gazon, who was selected by a vote of her classmates, said the class is filled with many stories of struggle, but also of hope for better leadership to take the islands to a brighter future.

"We have what it takes to start a project and complete it," De Gazon said. "Our work has just begun, the baton has been passed for us to take it up to build our community."

In an invigorating and enthusiastic speech, she challenged her classmates to answer the call made to them, embrace all that they have learned at the university and learn to focus and help their community and the island progress.

"At the end of your life it would not matter how many degrees you have or what material possessions you earn, but how much you served your fellow man and contribute to humanity" she said.

The keynote address came from Harvard professor, award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., who urged the graduates to realize the significance of their education and the sacrifices made so they could excel. He spoke of the greatness of their ancestors like Moses "Gen. Buddhoe" Gottlieb, and his legacy.

"You can't know where your are going if you don't know where you have been," he said. "Education can take you from Point A to Point B, but now that you have the tools, you have to build on it and make a difference."

Gates left the ceremony early to travel to New York City, where he will receive a Peabody Award for his PBS television series "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" today.

Joining Gates in receiving UVI an honorary Doctorate of Humanity Letters degree Sunday was St. Croix baseball legend and youth mentor Horace Clarke.

Clarke, of Frederiksted, played second base for the New York Yankees and also suited up for the San Diego Padres until he retired in 1974 and returned to the territory to give back as a mentor.

UVI Class of 2014 president Raydiance K. Watts-Clarke is Horace Clarke's niece and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in education and a minor in social science.

Paulette Jarvis and her daughter, Stella Jarvis, were also recognized Sunday. Paulette Jarvis graduated with an associate's degree in nursing and Stella Jarvis, a student in the 3-2 Engineering Program, graduated with a bachelor's degree in applied science and a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Florida.

As a part of their graduation ceremony, Adrianne Council, Nadia Nibbs and Herman Bardouille Jr. were also promoted to the rank of 2LT from the ROTC program to the V.I. National Guard.

Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis also briefly addressed graduates.

The proud families and friends of the graduates spilled out from the seated area under the tents and onto the open field just before sunset. Many waited anxiously to hear their graduate's name called to receive their degree. As each name was called, cheers erupted from various corners of the gathering and as graduates filed out of the ceremony they were bombarded with endless photo opportunities, hugs and kisses, dancing balloon bouquets and flowers.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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