November 2018

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Farewell, graduates!

Saying farewell to one phase of your life and getting ready to embark on a new part of your journey is the heart of what it means to be a valedictorian. Valedictorian is an academic title of success for the student who delivers the farewell statement at a graduation ceremony, called a valediction. The term is an Anglicised derivation of the Latin vale dicere ("to say farewell"). The role of valedictorian exists in schools and colleges in the US, Canada, and Central America. However, in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and India, you hardly hear the term. Indeed in France, there are rarely ceremonial graduation ceremonies of any kind held in schools or universities; you simply get your final grades and certificates, and you’re off.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, however, we love ceremonies, and many people from kindergarten to postgraduate level go through some form of graduation ceremony. The theatricality, the costumes, and the special speeches can all make the ceremonies meaningful and memorable, like a rite of passage into the real world after years of cloistered study.

The valedictorian is often the student with the highest Grade Point Average among their graduating class. But institutions vary in how they select valedictorians, and having a positive attitude, a natural curiosity about the world, a willingness to experiment and discover your passions, and a drive to be challenged and work hard, while still having outside interests and a genuine connection to other people, are all important qualities that can help not only valedictorians but all students as they leave university to create their own paths in the world. To all our graduates, The University of the West Indies says congratulations and best of luck in your future endeavours.

Ariel Chitan, from the Faculty of Science and Technology, graduated with a BSc in Physics (Major) and Maths (Minor), receiving First Class Honours.

“I went to St. Augustine Girls’ High School 2007-2014. I live with my dad and my puppy, Lara, who is the love of my life. My mother and my grandmother are two of my biggest influencers. They gave everything they had to ensure that their children became something in life. They made it possible for me to stand where I am and to have a choice to go after something I love.

“Physics has always been fun. It stood out from the rest of my subjects because it was a place I could free my mind and simply enjoy learning about the universe. Mathematics on the other hand has always kept me grounded. When I feel at times like my mind is wandering and I’m losing focus, I simply just practice Mathematics, and all is right with the world again. Of particular focus for me is Astronomy. I have always been in love with the stars and the night sky and it was only when I came to UWI that I decided wholeheartedly to pursue it as a career.”

Full Speech (PDF Format)

Ayanna Norville, from the Faculty of Law, graduated with a Bachelor of Law, receiving First Class Honours.

“I grew up with my mother from the age of nine years old after my father died in a tragic car accident. I have two older siblings and one younger sibling. My family is extremely close, and we maintain consistent communication with each other. I grew up on Norville’s Farm in Valencia which contributed to our family being so close-knit.

“I attended Arima Centenary Primary School and later attended Bishop Anstey High School East and then Bishop Anstey and Trinity College East Sixth Form.

“I decided to choose law because it is a multi-disciplined field which is integral to every aspect of society and which is people-centered.

“There is a famous Chinese saying that goes, ‘If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.’ This saying encapsulates what brings me the most joy – helping others.”

Full Speech (PDF Format)

Zoe Brown, of the Faculty of Social Sciences, graduated with a BSc in Psychology, receiving First Class Honours.

“I grew up in a farming province in New Zealand, spending a lot of time outside with my two older brothers exploring and adventuring. My mother homeschooled the three of us before I went to a small primary school of 60 children from ages 6-10. I was later homeschooled through my secondary school years, again by my hard-working, self-trained mother as my teacher.

“In my early twenties, I was a teacher aide in a local primary school and grew fascinated by the way children learn, process and interpret both academic and social information. My mother inspired me when she said, ‘It sounds like you need to study psychology.’

“After vacationing in Trinidad to visit friends who had recently completed their psychology degrees at the UWI, I was drawn to coming back and studying in Trinidad.

“Looking back at my UWI experience, what stands out to me is that you never know what you are capable of until you step out of your comfort zone and just give life a chance to show you!”

Full Speech (PDF Format)

Alicia Hosein, of the Faculty of Social Sciences, graduated with a BSc in Psychology, receiving First Class Honours.

Alicia has always wanted to help other people. Part of a close-knit family, Alicia was raised in an environment that nurtured kindness and care for others. So, when, as a teenager, she became active on social media and learnt that many people her own age suffered from depression and anxiety, she wanted to do what she could to help. She developed an interest in mental disorders; and she knew that a future in psychology awaited.

Alicia has been involved in volunteer work with the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the UWI STA Behavioural Sciences Student Association (a campus-based charity dedicated to serving the poor), the Autistic Society of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Cyril Ross Nursery’s Tutors for Tots programme.

Alicia aims to become a child psychologist with a focus on those who need such services but may not have the finances to afford them, “so that all children can have an equal opportunity to develop into well-functioning citizens.”

Full Speech (PDF Format)

Rayshawn Pierre, of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts (Major) and Carnival Studies (Minor), receiving First Class Honours.

“I am the second of five children and humbly the first to graduate from higher education from my family. I grew up in Tobago, where my passion for arts and culture was ignited. I have a three-year-old daughter that I gave birth to in my first year of UWI, and she has been my driving force. My family has been 100% supportive.

“I was guided to do the BA by my mentor and now Head of Department, Louis Mc William, who has been my inspiration since 2013, encouraging me to believe in my abilities.

“Two things stand out for me from my UWI experience. First, leading and directing a team of five students to the Jamaica Tallahwah Festival, Jamaica, in 2017, where we represented the UWI and DCFA, copping nine titles in the areas of storytelling, poetry and acting. Second, being crowned Miss La Reine Rive 2017 in the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition and having the support of my creative arts family.

“I want to be a part of the policy construction process necessary for the development of our creative industry. I am also passionate about Folk Art and Arts Education.”

Full Speech (PDF Format)

Vandana Persad, of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, graduated with a BSc in Optometry, receiving Second Class Honours (Upper Division).

“I attended Naparima Girls' High School for seven years, after which I attended the University of South Florida where I earned a degree in BSc. Cell and Molecular Biology. Upon completion, I realized that I wanted to be a part of the health care industry, which is what led me to Optometry. I have a keen interest in research as I believe that innovation in this field could help address many of the eye-care issues facing our T&T health care system.

“In my first year at the UWI, my colleagues and I would all have picnics in the grassy area near to our clinic. Although it sounds very simple, this is where we discovered each other as friends and future colleagues. It was a time where we had a lot more time available to ourselves to relax and enjoy the simpler things in life.

“I plan to tackle each day as it comes and do one good deed at a time. I intend to offer the best patient care possible to each one of my patients and perhaps, one day in the not-too-distant future, open a comprehensive eye care clinic. Obtaining my PhD may be in the cards, but we'll see how life goes!”

Full Speech (PDF Format)