Last week I was invited by Education Minister Tara Rivers to attend the Passport2Success commencement exercises.
Passport2Success is an education and training program for recent high school graduates and young Caymanian school leavers, who are still looking for suitable employment.
The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Training, and Employment, and is housed at the International College of the Cayman Islands.
It was a stunning ceremony.
I watched in amazement as this cohort of students, coincidentally all women, spoke eloquently about what they learned about résumé and interviewing skills, workplace competencies, and the role of community service as an emerging professional.
Students held internships as part of the program. The public and private sector supervisors heaped praises on the students’ contributions to the workplace.
Most remarkable were the students’ accounts of the transformational power of the program. To a person, each participant testified how the Passport2Success experience “changed” them in some way. Many said their attitudes and behaviors improved because of the program leaders who invested time in them. Students remarked about the sincerity of the program leaders.
It was at that very moment that some core personal beliefs were reaffirmed for me.
Education and training do matter. The more skills and abilities one gains, the more he or she is prepared to take his or her rightful place in work and in the community. Education does not have to happen in one continuous loop, but can be gained over time. Every education and training experience eventually will add up to earning a credential of economic value as determined by business and industry.
This should be the hope of every educator. When we as educators say a student is not prepared, we really need to add the word “yet” to that sentence.
We can never know what a student will eventually become given the right environment, and as in the case with programs like Passport2Success, there is an army of dedicated people committed to student success.
Although it may be frustrating at times to deal with challenging students, I think all educators have to view each student as being successful eventually; this has to be a core requirement of professional practice. We need to have faith that every student can learn, and embrace “the evidence not yet seen.”
Days after the Passport2Success commencement, I am still moved and very proud of the accomplishments of these young women. Congratulations! I am looking forward to hearing about your future successes. Most important, thank you for teaching us educators that what we do really matters.