Six GHS Seniors Graduate in Intimate Ceremony

GHS Class of 2011

Six students walked the red carpet laid out on Trayser Field on Friday evening, June 10, in an intimate and emotional graduation ceremony for the Gifft Hill School Class of 2011.

GHS seniors Sheniqua Davis, Trichelle Gumbs, Andreas Lerea, Tinesha Smith, Canelia Stapelton and Carson Wessinger graduated in GHS’ ninth commencement ceremony which featured University of the Virgin Islands president Dr. David Hall as the keynote speaker. Gumbs was the Valedictorian and Lerea, who has attended GHS since the sixth grade, was the class historian.

Proud family members, friends and GHS faculty gathered under tents on the school’s Trayser Field to as the sounds of the Love City Pan Dragons drifted on the breeze.

The students entered the field to the classic “Pomp and Circumstance” played on the pan by Monique Edward a member of the GHS Class of 2016.

The spotlight turned from a future GHS grad to an alumna, as a Evanna Chinnery, a member of the GHS Class of 2009, sang the Virgin Islands March.

Overseeing just her second commencement ceremony at GHS, head of school Judy Chamberlain welcomed the crowd and thanked the graduates’ teachers and families.

“This has been a long journey for me,” said Chamberlain. “The challenges were many, but the rewards were far, far greater. I thank the GHS faculty and the graduates’ families for all of their encouragement, prodding, discipline and love.”

Introducing keynote speaker Dr. Hall, Chamberlain said he was a hero for expanding higher education opportunities on St. John.

“At GHS we like to say that we open minds, hearts and doors,” said the head of school. “Dr. David Hall has become a hero this year by opening the doors of the new academic center at The Marketplace.”

In his thought-provoking remarks, Hall shared insights gleaned from his own academic experiences with the six GHS graduates.

“We are all proud of your accomplishments and we hope to inspire you to achieve even more,” said Hall. “When I graduated from high school, I had a vision which grew from hopes and dreams. I saw something greater than the segregated life in the deep south where I lived.”

“Inside of me was a vision of greatness from a place I didn’t fully understand, but in which I believed,” Hall said. “Your circumstances are very different from mine, but I hope your hearts and minds are filled with great visions for your future. Strive for greatness in whatever you choose to do.”

While encouraging students’ to achieve greatness in their chosen field, Hall also challenged the graduates expand their definition of greatness.

“The primary measure of greatness lies in the heart, mind and soul,” said the UVI President. “Greatness is not measured by what we possess, but our values and the service we provide to others. Use what you learned here to make a difference in the world.”

“Define greatness broadly, not narrowly,” said Hall. “See your great potential and claim it in your future. Don’t let anyone define you as anything other than great men and women.”

In a humorous, well-written and shared with fantastic delivery, class valedictorian Gumbs spoke about each of her classmates individually before giving everyone a piece of advice.

“I am going to tell you the secret to success,” said Gumbs. “You are not going to like it, but I’m going to tell you. It’s the word all teenagers hate — work.”

“It’s not going to be very enjoyable,” she said. “But after all that hard work, to look back and see all of your accomplishments is the greatest joy I’ve ever felt.”

GHS Upper Campus Dean Ken Heenan told the crowd a little about each graduate as he handed out diplomas. From the fashionista Davis, to the student athlete Wessinger, Heenan’s often funny stories about each graduate showcased the tight-knit community at the lone St. John high school.

With diplomas in hand, the graduates flung their tassels to the other side of their mortarboard caps and walked off the field to “I Made It” by Kevin Rudolf, to celebrate with beaming faculty and teary-eyed family members.

Davis is heading to UVI next year; Lerea will study psychology at Santa Monica College; Gumbs will attend Agnes Scott College; Smith will study business at Rider University; Stapelton plans to attend UVI; and Wessinger is heading off to Central Lakes Community College where he’ll suit up for the football team.
Congratulations GHS Class of 2011!