Graduates from the Ann Hill School were encouraged to grasp all learning opportunities as they journey onto new and uncharted paths.
The Class of 2019 stood on the stage of the New Testament Church of God, River Road, St Michael, as their parents, friends, teachers and ancillary staff proudly watched them receive their diplomas.
In keeping with the theme Your World Is As Big As You Make It, the featured speaker, Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, instructed the 21 graduates to continue their learning throughout adulthood.
“Graduates, your learning does not end here today for you will continue to learn new things throughout your lifetime. Your future is not defined by what happens at the primary, secondary or even post-secondary stage of your lives.
“Sometimes external factors may hinder you from achieving at specific times of your lives or take you into new and uncharted paths. You have to be determined that you will always strive to overcome challenges as they appear,” Hunte-Cox emphasized.
She urged the students to establish a good support system and develop ties within their communities and local social groups. Hunte-Cox advised the students to contribute to society, develop hobbies and interests and gain life experiences. She cautioned them that it was important that they learn to advocate for themselves and the support of assistance they might need in the world of work.
“You will need to be able to communicate your needs and together with your support system, you may be required to help identify from where you can receive that support,” she continued.
The former counsel general to New York called for the creation of community-based programmes that will help special needs children “develop a strong sense of self-acceptance and self-worth” as they enter the post-education world. Noting that transitioning into adulthood was difficult for young persons with special needs or disabilities, Hunte-Cox contended that the students need to advocate for themselves and others like them.
“Self-advocacy begins with you understanding how you think and learn. It is particularly important, as you will need accommodations in the workforce. In order to ask for and receive these accommodations, you must not only understand your needs but also be able to explain them to others,” she stressed.
Also appealing to the parents and guardians in the pews, Hunte-Cox urged them to plan for their children’s future from an early age so that the transition into post-secondary life would be easier for their charges. “Parents and their children may not agree on what they think the future should look like, so they quit talking about it. Also, they may have difficulty finding the resources they need for such planning. This is where the support system goes beyond family and friends and extends to governmental and non-governmental agencies. Parents, there are a number of issues that you will face as you enter the ‘world’, but what is most important is that you devise a plan for [your child’s transition],” Hunte-Cox cautioned.
During her report, Principal of the Ann Hill School Emelda Bell told the students to “find good friends and also find a hobby”. Lauding the students for their recent first prize at the Barbados Manufacturing Exhibition (BMEX), she urged them to never give up on their dreams. She also suggested that the parents be supportive as their charges sought independence.
“I want to encourage you to be the best that you can be as you move on from Ann Hill school and as you move on to your new endeavours and your areas of study. Prepare yourselves for the future and do that by hard work and determination,” Bell said. “You will meet challenges as you work towards your goals but don’t give up. Just persevere, stick towards your goals, work hard and never give up,” she continued.