When 13 Julius E. Sprauve School ninth graders graduated at a ceremony at the Westin Resort and Villas on Tuesday evening, June 9, the festive mood was tempered by the reality of how fleeting life can be.
The St. John students were reminded of the importance of their choices by Department of Education Insular Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry as she remembered Karence DaCosta, the Charlotte Amalie High School student who died in a car accident just hours after graduating on June 7.
“Make your next choice your best choice,” Smith-Barry told the JESS graduating class. “It starts tonight. Every choice you make has consequences.”
“Make each moment you have count,” said Smith-Barry.
While the students are sure to enter larger classes and schools, that doesn’t mean they will get lost, according to the DOE Superintendent.
“We’re really proud that you made it this far and we want to encourage you to continue,” said Smith-Barry. “As you leave St. John, you leave a little school and a little family and many of you will go off to bigger schools.”
“But that doesn’t mean that you no longer have a family,” Smith-Barry said. “It means you have a much bigger family. And all families stick together.”
The DOE District Superintendent urged the graduates to reunite in three years.
“I would like each of you to make a pledge to make it through the 12th grade,” said Smith-Barry. “I hope you have a JESS reunion then.”
JESS principal Mario Francis took time to remark on each of the graduates personally.
“With a class the size we have, it’s easy for us at JESS to be very intimate,” said Francis. “With our students we call ourselves the JESS family and that is really what we are.”
JESS staff members took over the spotlight as teachers and faculty sang moving renditions of “I Believe I Can I Fly,” and “Oh Happy Day,” to the delight of the crowd in the Westin ballroom.
Class Valedictorian Savannah Lyons-Anthony and Salutatorian Javon Venzen delivered impressive speeches to their peers, teachers, family members and friends.
Venzen focused on the word “choice” and recited Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”
“Hard work guarantees you nothing, but without it you don’t stand a chance,” said Venzen. “Make choices that count and make choices that make a difference.”
Lyons-Anthony thanked family members and teachers who helped her achieve her goals.
“Three years ago I walked through the gates of the Julius E. Sprauve School not knowing what to expect,” said Lyons-Anthony. “Now I am socially and mentally ready for what comes next, whatever that may be. It was the special attention we got at JESS that was the key to a healthy learning environment.”
“We can make anything happen,” said the JESS valedictorian.
Other distinguished guests who offered encouraging words to the ninth graders included Senate President Louis Hill, Senator at Large Craig Barshinger and Board of Education member Oswin Sewer. JESS alumni Antonio Powell delivered the keynote address.
The 2009 JESS ninth grad promotees were Frailen Castillo, Shevani Chickester, Natalie Dalmida, Nicole Dalmida, Travis Dalimda, Iesha Dawson, Clarissa Doyling, J’Kail Jacobs, Ohene Lambertis, Lyons-Anthony, Franklyn Perez, Alexa Richards and Venzen.