The University College of the Cayman Islands celebrated Cayman’s newest post-secondary graduates in a night of serious reflection and good humour.
The event, held 12 July at the newly rededicated Sir Vassel Johnson Hall, was a testament to the progress the school has made over the past year. More than 160 graduates in a variety of disciplines made their way to the dais to receive their degrees, including 12 Bachelor’s Degree recipients, an all-female contingent this year.
The evening was marked by a full roster of honours and speakers, including keynote speaker Ishmael Beah, a young man with a remarkable past who has worked with global organisations, including the UN and Human Rights Watch, as a human rights spokesperson.
As a boy in Sierra Leone, Mr. Beah was caught up in civil war. After his entire family was killed by rebel forces, he was recruited to fight for the government at the age of 13. He was later rescued and rehabilitated by UNICEF and eventually found his way to New York where he began what he calls his second life.
Fortunate to attend the prestigious United Nations International School, he gained admittance to Oberlin College where he wrote a memoir of his wartime experiences, A Long Way Gone, which debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times best seller list in March, and continues to fascinate readers across the globe.
‘Never underestimate the power of education,’ he told the packed hall.
‘Education is something that can never be taken away from you, and it can turn impossibilities into possibilities,’ he said.
The evening’s attendees also heard from Governor Stuart Jack and Education Minister Alden McLaughlin, who directed special attention to the technical and vocational certificate recipients, including nearly 50 graduates of the Tri-Alliance TVET program which provides skills-building for Public Works employees.
The evening also recognized a number of Cayman’s education patrons and public figures after whom the revamped UCCI campus buildings are named. Patrons like past UCCI President Sam Basdeo, National Hero Sybil McLaughlin and Sir Vassel Johnson were honoured with special awards for their contributions over the years.
Valedictorian Mellesha Chisholm, who earned a BA in Accounting and graduated Summa Cum Laude, urged graduates to make the most of the opportunities their education afforded to them, and do their part in contributing to Cayman society.
The evening also featured a surprise for UCCI President Hassan Syed.
During a raucous appreciation segment, the graduates serenaded Mr. Syed and presented him with a Superman suit to mark all the hard work he has put into developing UCCI this past year.
His colleague Student Services Director Mary Anne Cannon also received a complementary Wonder Woman outfit.
The evening culminated with a lively reception held in the UCCI quadrangle for the graduates and their families.