Gifft Hill School Class of 2012 Graduates 11 Students


The GHS Class of 2012, above, Valedictorian Coral Breuning, far right, and Salutatorian Patrick Smith, far left.

Eleven seniors graduated from the sole St. John high school in an intimate commencement exercise ceremony at Gifft Hill School’s Trayser Field on Thursday evening, June 14.

The event was a celebration of all that GHS, a private pre-K through 12th grade, stands for, explained Head of School Judy Chamberlain.

“Today we celebrate all that GHS is about; academic excellence, dedication to the creative arts, active citizenship, passion for learning and the pursuit of dreams,” said Chamberlain.

Guest speaker Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut and president of Ad Astra Rocket Company, was introduced to the crowd by his daughter, Liz Kinsella, GHS’ Upper Campus Dean.

Chang-Diaz, the first naturalized citizen accepted into NASA’s astronaut corps, was born in Costa Rica and overcame seemingly overwhelming odds on his way to logging hundreds of hours in space, Kinsella explained.

“You may think you are have nothing in common, but along the way, it was mentors who inspired and supported Dr. Chang-Diaz to achieve his dream of going to space,” she said.
While the road ahead might seem scary, the graduates are prepared for what comes next, Chang-Diaz told the GHS class of 2012.

“This is one heck of an accomplishment today and there are more to come for you,” he told the graduates. “Some of you may be scared of the road ahead, but just look behind you. Look at what you have already achieved and be confident in yourselves.” Don’t be afraid to look for help, Chang-Diaz added.

“No one gets anywhere without someone else’s help,” said the former astronaut. “You have many people who have helped you reach this point and there are many more people who will help you in the future. Stay with your dreams.”

Following Chang-Diaz’s inspirational remarks, Love City Pan Dragons played “Don’t Leave Me This Way” as a dedication to GHS graduating senior J’Keil Jacobs, a long-time member of the steel band and a mentor to many young players.

The competition and, in the end, the difference between valedictorian and salutatorian was so close, the two students chose to address the crowd together. Coral Breuning, who graduated at the top of the GHS class, and Patrick Smith, who finished the year just behind in second, thanked their parents, their teachers and the community for supporting GHS.

“Today is not just about GHS seniors graduating, but it’s  reminder that all of you have raised great children and supported us all,” said Breuning.

“This year was full of ups and downs,” said Smith. “We’ve experienced life-changing experiences this year. These are times we will never forget.”

As the students head off to college next year, graduates should remember to listen to their hearts, Breuning added.

“The wisest follow their own direction,” she said.

The 2012 GHS senior class was a special one, school college counsellor Meghan Duffy explained before handing diplomas.

“This class is fun-loving, close-knit and full of adventure,” said Duffy. “Every single one was accepted to college and as of now — and this continues to come in — they have earned a total of $300,000 in merit-based scholarships.”

After speaking about each graduate individually, Duffy distributed diplomas the graduates.

The graduates are sure to accomplish great things in the future, Chamberlain said in closing remarks.

“Each of you has chartered a unique course to get here today,” said the GHS Head of School. “We know you are going to be doing great things in the future.”

And with that, the GHS seniors rose from their seats, flipped their tassels from right to left and celebrated finishing their high school years.

Graduating from GHS were Coral Breuning, Shavoni Chichester, Justin Doran, Bradley Fessale, Keneeka Hodge, J’Keil Jacobs, Kanika Liburd, Aspen Moore, Bryan Morton, Jeanie Patrie and Patrick Smith. Congratuations to all the graduates!