Stevens, Samuel Graduate at Top of Gifft Hill School Class

Eleven Gifft Hill School students made history as the largest senior class to graduate on St. John on Thursday evening, June 11.

With threatening skies overhead, the GHS graduation was moved to the indoor restaurant at Caneel Bay Resort, but the shift of location didn’t dampen the mood. The large crowd spilled almost onto the beach to celebrate with the school’s, and the island’s, fifth graduating senior class.

V.I. First Lady Cecile deJongh delivered the commencement address and offered a few pieces of advise to the graduates.


The Gifft Hill School Class of 2009 is all smiles during their commencement ceremony.

“Always be passionate about  the process and success will follow,” said deJongh. “The joy is in the journey. The secret is to enjoy the journey while it’s happening.”

The first lady also urged the students to be lifelong learners.

“Always be learning,” deJongh told the GHS seniors. “Learning is the antidote to ignorance and hatred.”

In a speech before his proud family and friends, Valedictorian Malik Stevens, who is heading to Georgetown University in the fall, recalled the day he first went “up the hill” to GHS three years ago.

“At first I was a bit skeptical,” said Stevens. “I was scared that I would not mesh well and the work would be too much. But I came.”

Malik Stevens and Jessica Samuel.

“I decided I would take the road less traveled,” Stevens said. “That was three years ago and I do not regret it one bit. I have tried to make the most of my time at GHS.”

Salutatorian Jessica Samuel recited and found inspiration in Dr. Suess.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind,” Samuel said.

After winning a prestigious Quest Bridge grant, a four-year scholarship worth more than $250,000, Samuel is heading off to Wesleyan University in the fall.

Class of 2009 and their supporters.

Evanna Chinnery, who will be attending Berklee College of Music, brought the house down — and the crowd to their feet — with her rendition of “I Hope You Dance.”

Before handing out diplomas to the 11 graduates, GHS Head Master Ben Biddle shared intimate stories of each student. Graduating from GHS were Stevens, Samuel, Chinnery, Chade Edwards, Kerla Fessale, Mathew Gibney, Zenobia Howe, Tafari Olliviere, Denique Thomas, Shawana Thomas and Matty Trayser.