Gifft Hill School Graduates Nine


(L to R) John Spinale, Makeda Dawson, Alex Ray, Jaqualyn Clarke, Luca del Olmo, Anjali Glenn, Jackson Barry, Savanna Morrisette and K’yon Louis. The Gifft Hill School Class of 2015 has earned a cumulative total of more than $811,000 in merit scholarships for the next four years.


GIFT HILL —It was a testament to the intimacy of The Gifft Hill School that the two top scholars in the nine-member graduating class of 2015 spent their entire academic careers at the islands only k-12 educational facility.

For Salutatorian Luca del Olmo, that was 15 years “as part of the Gifft Hill family” including pre-school.

Valedictorian Alex Ray, however, was marking the end of his only four-years of organized “school” experience that followed his homeschooling at the family home on Gibney Beach on Hawksnest Bay on the North Shore of St. John.

Both Ray and del Olmo were the epitome of the close-knit class of nine students who bonded at the island’s only k-12 educational facility.
Ray captured the audience with a theatrical performance cultivated by his outstanding academic career.

“There is no such thing as ‘just’ being what you genuinely want to be,” Ray told his captivated audience. “Take that giant pile of unused future that lying out there somewhere and, as obvious as this sounds, do something with it.”

15-Year “Student” Graduates
After 15 years as part of the Gifft Hill School family – he actually started when it was still called the Pine Peace School – Luca delivered heartfelt thanks for his experience at the only school the top-ranked Caribbean tennis player has ever known.

“Enjoy the rest of the years you have at GHS because, before you know it you will be finished,” del Olmo told GHS students in attendance. “Work hard, but have fun at the same time.”

Ray, 17, will be attending Bennington College in Vermont and studying liberal arts. Del Olmo, 17, will study engineering at the University of Florida.

All nine graduating seniors were accepted to colleges and universities. Two will attend the University of the Virgin Islands and others are enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Flagler College for Business, DePaul University and Lynn University.

The graduates received more than $811,000 in scholarships, according to Gifft Hill Head of School Laurie Bottiger. Graduate Nikita Dawson alone was awarded $162,000 in scholarships.

Colleges being attended by members of the graduating class include: Bennington College, DePaul University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Flagler College for Business, Lynn University, University of Florida-Gainesville and the University of the Virgin Islands.

The nine members of the graduating class were: Alex, Ray, Luca del Olmo, Anjali Glenn, Nikita Dawson, Savanna Morrisette, Jaqualyn Clarke, Jackson Barry, John Spinale and K’yon Louis.

“You have a responsibility to assist others in learning,” guest speaker V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett reminded the graduating class. “Push that on the other students as well. Be those avant-garde individuals wherever you go.”

In what parents Michael and Barbie Barry acknowledged would be admittedly more embarrassing moments for their graduating son Jackson, the long-time island restaurateurs and performers presented a song they had written when Jackson was born.

Michael Barry is a member of the GHSA board of Trustees and Barbie Barry is a member of the faculty at GHS. Jackson was appropriately abashed.

More than 200 people attended the sunset graduation ceremony on Trayser Field on the Gifft Hill School Upper Campus.