At each of the three convocation ceremonies hosted by the University of Guyana (UG) yesterday for its 2018 graduating class, Valedictorian Shakti Persaud encouraged her colleagues to work hard in silence and let their success be their noise.
Persaud, one of the first graduates of UG’s School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI), told the audience at the National Cultural Centre that there are no time limits on opportunities for development, which ends only when we close our eyes in death.
“Australia sees the sunrise before England, England sees the sunrise before Guyana but in the end, all countries get to see the sunrise. Like countries, we all have personal time zones and it doesn’t matter that we achieve our goals at 20, 30, 40 or 50, what matters is that we see the sun; that we achieve our goals in this lifetime and make a difference in our homes and society,” she said.
Persaud, who went into the workforce immediately after secondary school, explained that though she was not able to achieve her first degree in her 20s, she made the sacrifices necessary to reach her goal.
“If you are 20 or 40 and achieving your degree today, know you are a success story,” she stressed.
Although this year’s graduating class, which numbered 1,739 students, was smaller than last year’s, which featured over 2,000 students, an additional ceremony was held this year to apparently avoid the overcrowding experienced on the last occasion. This is the first time that students graduated not just from SEBI but from several other newly introduced programmes at both the Bachelors and Masters levels.
Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith, during each of his three addresses, identified a student present at that ceremony, and shared their unique story of perseverance.
At the 9 am ceremony, the graduands from the faculties of Agriculture and Forestry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Education and Humanities, who number 379 this year, were read the personal testimony of Robinson George, a hearing impaired teacher who at 29, wrote the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination.
In the 10 years since attempting and passing the examination, George has graduated from the Cyril Potter College of Education and as of yesterday, the University of Guyana.
Just before he and his colleagues walked the stage of the National Cultural Centre, they were encouraged by Professor David Phoenix to make the choice to take that chance that can change the world.
Phoenix, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the London South Bank University, stressed that change is necessary and must come from those graduating. However, in order to enact change, they must choose to move forward.
“Many people fail because they don’t take the chance to move forward. Change requires choice and it requires a willingness to take a chance,” Phoenix stated.
Four hours after that ceremony, graduands from the Faculties of Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences and Natural Sciences, who number 651 this year, heard the testimony of Akeem St Louis, a Civil Engineering student who lost the use of his hand after being attacked in 2015.
Find your calling
Professor Norman Monroe, of the Florida International University, encouraged the Class of 2018 to mentor others and be persistent.
“Hang in there during challenging times. Find your calling, something you are passionate about. Find that North Star that generates a focused passion, [for] it is not until you find your true passion that you get up excited to work,” he stressed.
The final ceremony was for the 699 students from the Faculty of Social Sciences and the SEBI.
Along with the 228 SEBI graduates, students matriculated with Masters Degrees in Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine and Social Work. The first batch of Psychology and Information Services students also graduated with their Diplomas and Bachelor of Science degrees, respectively.
Kamal Ramkarran, who delivered the feature address at the final ceremony, stressed that the students’ real achievement is one that can’t be seen or touched.
“Certificates can be lost, ripped to pieces or burnt in a fire,” he explained, before adding that the real achievement is the difference between the person who first entered campus and the person walking the stage; a difference no ruler can measure as it is a combination of all ideas received and developed in and out of the classrooms.
He encouraged them to celebrate that difference equally with the certificates and letters they can now put behind their names. He also encouraged them to do everything they put off to study. “You don’t need to wait after your graduation to start life but since today is your graduation, start tomorrow,” he advised.
Ramkarran also called on students to think of Guyana as a real country rather than as a place where they are “in transit.”
“Choose to take Guyana seriously and make things work… let us all think of one or two ways we can make things work and go out tomorrow and do it. Take example from the Vice-Chancellor…he is transforming it [the university] because he thinks it is a real university that can hold its own against other universities,” Ramkarran stressed.