The Class of 2020 will leave “into chaos” and will have to work extra hard to succeed in an uncertain world, the Berkeley Institute’s graduation ceremony was warned yesterday.
Ryan Robinson Perinchief, a former pupil and the founder of the Future Leaders programme, told pupils that the future would be difficult as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the fallout from economic and social disruption. Mr Robinson Perinchief said: “The simple reality for graduates of 2020 is that there will be some tough days ahead.
“No one could have predicted that your final year in high school would be upended by a global pandemic, a world in protest and an unstable economic future.
“If it was hard before, it will definitely be a challenge going forward, make no mistake about it. A lot of things we thought we had control over will have to be completely reimagined.”
He asked the ceremony: “What words could I possibly say to a group of high school students who have graduated while the world is burning down around them?
“How do you motivate a generation that feels like they have nothing to look forward to?
“How do you inspire a group of graduates to keep the end in view when the entire world seems to have lost its view?”
Mr Robinson Perinchief said that the pandemic was the biggest cultural upheaval since the Second World War.
He told the graduates: “We need you to know that you are needed, you are valued and have something unique that you can contribute to this world.”
Mr Robinson Perinchief, who graduated from Berkeley in 2014 with triple honours, gave the leaving class three pieces of advice to take with them.
He said: “Take time to get to know yourself. Be yourself and celebrate yourself. Create something.”
He was speaking to a handful of staff and pupils who delivered their own speeches at the school while the rest of the 125 leavers and other teachers watched the event on Zoom.
They were joined by David Burt, the Premier, Diallo Rabain, the education minister, Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, and Commissioner of Education Kalmar Richards.
Mr Robinson Perinchief also highlighted bad behaviour shown by some school pupils — including some from Berkeley — after the shelter-in-place restrictions were lifted.
He said: “We saw all sorts of house parties and drinking — you see, in times of anxiety, fear and loathing take root, many of us feel the need to be comforted and secure, some of us figure what is the point, so we lose our values and our focus.”
He told the graduates: “If you are feeling anxious, uncertain or defeated, I want you to take a moment to look inside of yourself. I urge you examine what is important to you.”
He also paid tribute to the late Eva Hodgson, an ex-pupil and former geography teacher at the school and “an advocate who dared to speak the truth and fight for a better and fairer world”, as well as Kristin White, who was part of the Class of 1997, for her leadership of Social Justice Bermuda and support of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Keisha Douglas, the Berkeley principal, said it was sad that this year’s leavers had missed out on the traditional events and celebrations that marked the end of life at school.
She added: “There is not a lot we can say to make it better … but it is important to remember that nothing can take away from what you have accomplished. You will have fascinating stories to tell your children and grandchildren one day.”
The graduation also included speeches by Jaiden Furbert-Jacobs who challenged his classmates to be “the best version of yourselves”.