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Graduation highlights

HighlightsGraduation highlights

Photo: Delmer Umana, valedictorian

Student with Ectodermal Dysplasia is Valley of Peace SDA Academy’s valedictorian

by Kristen Ku

BELMOPAN, Mon. June 10, 2024

The Valley of Peace Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Academy held its 14th commencement exercise on Sunday, June 9, at the University of Belize Jaguar Auditorium.

Seventeen students graduated, with 10 receiving honors in specialized fields such as business and in academics. The ceremony began with a heartfelt rendition of the school song, performed by the graduates.

The top three students honored during the ceremony were Emerson Herrera, who delivered the Vote of Thanks, salutatorian Ethan Navarro, and valedictorian Delmer Umana.

Delmer Umana, 16, stood out not just for his academic achievements, but for his exceptional resilience. As the elder of two sons, Delmer lives with Ectodermal Dysplasia, a rare condition that affects his skin, sweat glands, hair, teeth, and nails. This condition prevents him from sweating and regulating his body temperature, making it challenging to live in Belize’s humid climate. To avoid heat stroke, Delmer must remain in air conditioning or in front of a fan at all times.

Despite these challenges, Delmer continued his education online until 2022, with support from his teachers. When students returned to in-person classes, the school faced a new challenge: how to integrate Delmer into the classroom environment.

Initially, a sealed cubicle was built for him, but it quickly became uncomfortable for him. Through an appeal to the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit, Delmer’s story reached H.E. Rosanna Briceño, who visited the school in September 2022.

Understanding Delmer’s needs, H.E. Rosanna Briceño arranged for Delmer’s classroom to be fully air-conditioned, allowing him to study comfortably with his classmates. This accommodation enabled Delmer to thrive academically. Overcoming his obstacles, Delmer maintained a spot on the honor roll list with an average score of over 97% for four consecutive years and received recognition for outstanding behavior.

On June 9th, Delmer graduated with honors as the valedictorian for the class of 2024, demonstrating that with the right support, students with unique challenges can achieve remarkable success.

In his valedictory address, Delmer shared his journey and gratitude. “Growing up in Belize, there were constant challenges due to my condition. Fortunately, I was blessed with two loving parents who always cared for me. They helped me embrace my difference and view the world with optimism,” he said. “Living with Ectodermal Dysplasia has been a challenge, but it has also been a form of strength and resilience,” he further noted.

Delmer added, “Standing before you today as the valedictorian is one of the greatest honors of my life. It’s a testament to the hard work and perseverance that brought us all to this moment.”

The ceremony also featured speeches from the principal, the salutatorian, and guest speaker Elmer Kay, a pioneer conservationist and educator from Progresso, Corozal, and the current leader of the Belize Maya Forest Trust.

Delmer’s story does not end with graduation. He has been accepted to the University of Belize, where he plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy in honor of his mother, who passed away two years ago due to Lupus.

However, due to the high cost of living and electricity bills that his father is faced with paying, Delmer has reached out to the Minister of Education, Hon. Francis Fonseca, for a scholarship to help him continue his education.

Ladyville Tech holds its 22nd graduation ceremony

BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 10, 2024

On Saturday, June 8, the Ladyville Technical High School held its 22nd graduation ceremony at the Princess Ramada in Belize City.

The ceremony began with a heartfelt rendition of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” performed by the students.

This year, 107 students graduated, with 44 of them earning honors. The top three graduates were Glendy Chan, Linda Garcia, and Edwin Mena, all of whom were recognized for their outstanding academic performance

Following the salutatorian’s emotional address, Glendy Chan, the valedictorian, took the stage to deliver her speech, and she used the metaphor of crossing an ocean to describe the journey ahead for the graduates. This was also the ceremony’s theme.

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to leave the shore. The shore represents safety, stability, predictability, and the known. It’s where we have sharpened our skills, formed friendships, and absorbed knowledge. But it’s also a place of limitations, a boundary that keeps us anchored. Beyond the shore lies a vast area, the ocean of possibilities. To cross this ocean, we must summon our courage, the courage that drove explorers like Christopher Columbus to venture into the unknown,” she said.

She also encouraged her peers to celebrate not only their achievements, but also the journey itself. Notably, Unique Bowman and Maylen Prado, who placed fourth and fifth respectively, were acknowledged as well.

The ceremony featured special guest, Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, area representative for Belize Rural Central, and guest speaker, Minister and Sergeant Fredrick Gordon.

Gordon’s humorous but substantial message focused on four important life principles: the necessity of movement in life; living true to oneself rather than to please others; setting personal boundaries; and lightening life’s burdens.

Principal Dian Westby presented the awards and diplomas to the graduates, recognizing their hard work and dedication throughout their high school years.

The ceremony concluded with the traditional passing of the torch to the top-ranking first, second, and third formers, symbolizing the continuous journey of learning and growth. This moment was conducted by valedictorian Glendy Chan, before she marched out of the ceremony.

Big day at Maud Williams High

BELIZE CITY, Fri. June 7, 2024

It was a joyful and memorable day at Maud Williams High School as the Class of 2024 celebrated their 21st graduation commencement exercise on Thursday, June 6.

The ceremony, held at the Bliss Center for Performing Arts in Belize City, was filled with cheers and smiles from proud families and friends who gathered to watch their loved ones step into the next chapter of their lives.

The ceremony was a colorful affair, with students dressed in their school uniforms, adorned with sashes and stoles. One of the highlights was the speech given by the valedictorian, Angel Canek, who has not only excelled academically, but also continued a family tradition of high achievement.

“When I first started my journey at Maud Williams High School, I was keenly aware of the path laid before me by my siblings, each of whom completed studies at Maud Williams High School in the top four. Two of them stood before their graduating class as valedictorians,” he explained.

Angel reminded everyone about the tough start his class had because of COVID-19. There were no school tours or welcome assemblies. Everything was online—from classes on Google Classroom to meetings on Zoom. Despite these challenges, Angel celebrated how everyone overcame them and finally enjoyed normal school life in the later years.

“It was an unprecedented time, but we pushed through and we overcame it,” he said.

The valedictorian thanked all the teachers for their hard work. He also didn’t forget to thank the families and friends who supported them through their school journey. “Your sacrifices, endless patience, and words of wisdom have nurtured us into the individuals we are today.”

Angel ended his speech by praising his classmates’ talents, and encouraged them to use their skills to make the world a better place. He expressed confidence that the Class of 2024 will be remembered as one of the most determined and caring groups to have graduated from Maud Williams High.

The ceremony also recognized other top achievers such as Rachel Warren who came in second place, Kaiesha Barrow in third, and Jose Coy in fourth. Out of the 37 graduates, 7 graduated with honors and one earned an honorary certificate.

Notably, the guest speaker was none other than the Minister of Education himself, Hon. Francis Fonseca.

Alvin L. Young’s 13th commencement ceremony

SAN JOSE SUCCOTZ, Cayo District, Mon. June 10, 2024

Alvin L. Young High School held its 13th commencement exercise on Saturday, June 8, at the Mount Zion Camp Grounds in San Jose Succotz, Cayo.

The ceremony, directed by the mistress of ceremonies, Karina Coyoc, was held under the inspiring theme, “All dreams are within reach; all you have to do is keep moving towards them,” a quote from actress Viola Davis.

At this year’s ceremony there were 30 graduates who completed their studies in business, science, and vocational fields. Among these graduates, Kelsey Williams, 17, stood out as the valedictorian for the class of 2023-2024.

In her address, she encouraged her fellow graduates to embrace the future with the lessons, values, and memories they have gathered. “As we prepare to step out into the harsh reality of life, let us carry the lessons we have learned and the values we hold dear, and most importantly, the memories we’ve made together,” Williams said.

She acknowledged the unwavering support from her teachers, parents, and classmates. Quoting Mark Twain, she advised her peers, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did; so, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

She added, “This has been something that always reminded me to take advantage of the opportunities life offers, whether it is presented to you or built from your dedication and discipline.”

Notably, when Amandala asked her about her future endeavors, she explained that she plans to take a year off before studying psychology abroad.

The ceremony also recognized two salutatorians, Zaylee Mai and Daniela Pech, who tied for second place. Similarly, two students, Shelby Cowo and Antonio Itza, tied for the Vote of Thanks, placing third overall.

Following the guest speaker’s address by Maria Martinez, an educator and former Benque Viejo town councilor, the diplomas and awards were distributed to the graduates by school board members.

The ceremony concluded with the traditional passing of the torch performed by the valedictorian, the salutatorians, and those who gave the Vote of Thanks, who passed the honor to the top five third-form students.

76 students graduate from Mopan Technical High School

BENQUE VIEJO TOWN, Cayo District, Mon. June 10, 2024

Mopan Technical High School marked its 40th year with a grand graduation ceremony on June 8 at the Savannah Auditorium in Benque Viejo Town. The event, held under the theme, “40 Years of Empowering Minds: Paving Pathways, Through Endless Discovery,” was a celebration of achievement, dedication, and future aspirations.

The ceremony was guided by mistresses of ceremony, Mrs. Nubia Polanco Mendez and Mrs. Julissa Uh Cooch. Seventy-six graduates proudly walked the stage, with 26 students having been on the honor roll for their fourth form year and 20 being honored for all four years.

The highlight of the event was the recognition of Shayndel Rivas as the valedictorian. In her address, Rivas shared her journey and the challenges she overcame to achieve this honor.

“Reflecting on the past year, I vividly remember the moment I discovered I was in the running for the title of valedictorian. It was then that I made a firm decision to pursue this honor with all my heart. I dedicated countless hours to studying, faced moments of stress and doubt, but through it all, I held onto my faith. I turned to the verse that became my guiding light, John 14:13, which states, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ This verse reminds us that as God’s children, we can approach Him with any request through prayer, and if we believe in Him and have faith, He will reveal His glory through each and every one of us,” she shared.

Rivas also added the importance of making a positive impact on the world. “As we prepare to embark on the next chapter of our lives, let us remember that our success is not solely determined by the titles we hold or the accolades we receive. It is about the impact we make on the world around us.” She expressed heartfelt gratitude to her family, teachers, classmates, and God for their support and guidance.

Rayma Leon, the salutatorian, and Ashton Eck, who delivered the Vote of Thanks, were also honored during the ceremony. The event featured the traditional Passing of the Torch of Education from the outgoing students to the third formers, symbolizing the continuation of academic excellence.

The presentation of diplomas to all 76 graduates followed, along with several special awards recognizing outstanding achievements in various fields. The guest speaker was Maria Elvira Hernandez, a beloved educator.

Cornerstone Presbyterian High School holds 18th graduation ceremony

CONCEPCION VILLAGE, Corozal District, Mon. June 10, 2024

Over the weekend, Cornerstone Presbyterian High School (CPHS) held its graduation ceremony on June 8, at the school’s compound, commemorating its 18th graduation exercises, as it sent out 24 graduates into the world.

Under the theme, “Walking in His Dreams, Embracing God’s Plan for the Future,” the ceremony welcomed special guests such as the school’s chairman, Mr. Leogardo Catzim; Presbyterian General Manager, Rev. Alvaro Pott; and guest speaker, Kenya Colliard-Chaves, the Principal Education Officer for Corozal District.

Between the business and academic fields, the top three students acknowledged at the ceremony included Triston Avilez as the valedictorian, Daniel Cal as the salutatorian, and Kaelyn Quintanilla who delivered the Vote of Thanks.

At 16, Triston graduated with a GPA of 3.97 where he maintained his name on the honor roll list throughout his four years. He also served as CPHS’s Student Prime Minister.

In his address, Triston shared his journey, which was not without challenges. “During my darkest hours, when despair seemed insurmountable, it was God who illuminated my path, uplifted my spirit, and endowed me with the strength to persevere. His support has been the bedrock of my resilience, continually providing me with the courage to keep moving forward,” he said. “I have come to understand that true success stems from placing God at the very center of my life.”

Triston also quoted basketball legend Michael Jordan, who once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I’ve succeeded.” This quote helped him understand the essence of perseverance and resilience.

“Every challenge and setback serves as a vital lesson, shaping me into a more resilient and determined individual. This understanding has inspired me to adopt a mindset that seeks out the silver linings in every situation. I now view failure not as a roadblock, but as a stepping stone that brings me closer to my goals. I’ve learnt to embrace the idea that every obstacle we face is a chance to learn, grow, and improve,” he added.

Notably, he also keenly thanked his supporters, family, school, and friends who believed and encouraged him along the way.

The ceremony continued with the distribution of diplomas and awards by the chairman and guest speaker, and the graduation song entitled “I Give You My Dreams”, which emphasizes the importance of embracing God’s plan and keeping faith at the center of one’s life.

Valedictorian Triston Avilez plans to continue his education at Corozal Junior College (CJC), where he will major in accounting and economics.

SHC holds graduation ceremony in San Ignacio

SAN IGNACIO TOWN, Cayo District, Mon. June 10, 2024

“Embracing the Future with Courage and Resilience. Paving the Way for Achievable Plans.” This was the theme of Sacred Heart College’s (SHC) graduation ceremony, held this past weekend in San Ignacio. The event drew hundreds of graduates and their families from across the country.

Hosted by Mr. Felix Mai, the ceremony took place at SHC’s auditorium and was streamed virtually by Mr. Kent Pandy, ensuring that everyone could join in the celebrations.

A total of 185 students graduated, with 67 of them earning honors for their fourth year, and 61 receiving honors for all four years. Among the top students were Amin Bedran, who delivered the Vote of Thanks; Tristan Bedran, the salutatorian; and Katy Jones, the valedictorian.

The ceremony was opened with the signing of the national pledge led by 4 graduates (who also led the singing of the school’s song at the end of the ceremony), namely: Kathryn Velasquez, Melicah Moody, Klarissa Williams, and Kathleen Vasquez.

Mrs. Rocio Carballo, the school president, was given the time to step forward and deliver her address, followed by guest speaker, Ronelli Requena, an SHC alumna and local fashion designer, founder and owner of Zayvha Sarai.

Requena spoke about the personal nature of success. “Success to me is a deeply personal, subjective concept. It is a diversity of human experience shaped by our values and passion and the personal definition of fulfillment. It can’t be measured by external standards or compared to the achievement of others. Its true essence lies in the journey of self-discovery and self-value,” she said.

She encouraged graduates to dream big, find their values and purpose, avoid measuring success by others’ standards, and find supportive communities.

The ceremony continued with the presentation of diplomas and various awards, including the presentation of parents’ awards and the Faculty and Staff of The Year award. Valedictorian Katy Jones then took the stage to deliver her address, inspiring her classmates to embrace the future with courage and resilience.

The event was attended by several special guests, including the school’s board members; former SHC presidents; the Mayor of Santa Elena and San Ignacio, Earl Trapp; and members of the government such as Hon. Michael Chebat, area representative for Cayo North; Hon. Orlando Habet, area representative for Cayo North East; Hon. Luis “Alex” Balona, area representative for Cayo Central; and Hon. Jorge Espat, area representative for Cayo West.

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