Her remarks drew spontaneous applause and as the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute’s 2018 valedictorian Melanie Worrell stood before her classmates as a true picture of success.
Worrell topped the 305 SJPI full-time students graduating class of 2018 with a grade point average between 3.8 and 4.0, and division instructor and MC Wayne Maycock said that in addition to her excellent pass grade, the top graduate was recognized as “a very competent lady ready for her industry today”.
It was Worrell’s revelation that she had to overcome a challenge particular to many young female school leavers that caused the packed Hilton conference room of graduates, family, government officials and other well-wishers to erupt into applause.
“Having to juggle school, work and my two children was very challenging,” she said. “But I am very glad to be able to show my children that it is possible to succeed despite the challenges that may come your way.”
While some of the challenges that Worrell listed might be recognized as just what is to be expected in student life, hers was not that of a normal student, so the obstacles overcome by this young mother were more formidable.
“I had many nights of little or no sleep and lots of hard work. I had to sacrifice my lunch hour to study for exams. Then there were the many practicals and presentations and job attachments. It is only by the grace of God that I am here this evening delivering this speech,” she said Saturday evening.
Worrell’s story at this point in her life put to meaning the encouragement of Principal Ian Drakes, and featured speaker Senator Lucille Moe.
“Lifelong learning is the only avenue on which we can build and fulfil our dreams,” Drakes told the class.
Senator Moe, the Acting Minister of Education, urged the graduates to “see it through until the end…even through the tough times and the failures that most likely will come, believe a breakthrough is around the corner and keep pressing on”.
Worrell is certainly pressing on.
Having topped the school’s 2018 GPA on her way to collecting a Nursing Auxiliary Studies Certificate, she has already enrolled for the full nursing programme at the Barbados Community College.
This is progress for the young adult mother who, by her own admission, entered classes unable to even create a document on a computer. She praised tutors for teaching her the basics.
“This evening we celebrate the journey on which we have all embarked towards our future destination,” she said to her graduating colleagues.
“No matter what our reasons were for choosing SJPI, it is important now that we are all here this evening to celebrate our triumph, our achievement, our victories, both individually and as an institution.”
Speaking for herself and her classmates, added said: “Graduation marks the end of this extraordinary chapter in our lives. With this chapter closed, I am certain that many of us are already anxious about starting the next one, because unlike our text books, we cannot skip through the pages of life to see how long the next chapter is going to be.”
“We all have that book of life. Every day that passes we leave a mark. Let us make a positive mark and make our construction something of use.”
Whether or not she knows it, Worrell, as a young mother who battled against the odds and won, has left a mark not only for her classmates but also for the many young women and mothers who can take it as a signal to defy their own battles. (GA)