On April 6 last year, The Royal Gazette published an article titled “Benefits to all when our graduates thrive”. It spoke of 2017 graduates of the Berkeley Institute as they participated in the mandatory “exit interview” for graduation. It requires that senior students go through an interview as preparation for transition to tertiary education or the world of work. These interviews are conducted by a number of community partners, human resources directors, former educators and Berkeley alumni, who then give students feedback on their presentations.
One hundred and forty-five students are positioning themselves as 2018 Berkeley graduates. To date, approximately 40 have finalised places in universities in the United States, Britain or Canada. Some will study at the Bermuda College, some will travel abroad as exchange students and others will be entering the workforce.
Once again, the 2018 interviewers were fascinated and inspired with the great potential that presented itself as these senior students shared about self, the accomplishments that they are proud of, what they plan to do after graduation, how they plan to achieve their goals, their role models, and the significant lessons they have learnt that will guide them in their future endeavours.
It is important to repeat, for the Bermuda public, that the majority of these senior students present themselves with confidence, enthusiasm and in expectation of a promising future as fully participating members of our community. They clearly communicated their future goals and aspirations with full intention. They speak of being hard-working and focused. There is no question regarding outstanding ability and intellect. This year’s Outstanding Teen Awards were a testament to this as Berkeley students excelled in every category and won seven awards.
The Berkeley students speak with appreciation and respect of positive support from their school, their teachers, their coaches, their families and, indeed, their peers, who share hopes of creating a better Bermuda. It is important to also note that among these students are those successfully juggling school and part-time jobs, dual enrolment at the Bermuda College and club or country sporting activities. Each year we also find some who are valiant in keeping up their studies while striving to resist temptations or to overcome serious social situations on a personal front.
What we learn from interacting with the graduating students of Berkeley bears repeating:
• If you as a parent are not aware of your child’s performance in high school, or you are surprised at this time of year that your child is not on the graduation list, then you have not been paying enough attention. There are quarterly reports and parent conferences. There are conversations you should be having with your child. The school’s Student Services Department is there for both of you
• It is notable that there have been an increased number of offers of scholarships and bursaries this year. For worthy students in financial need, these provide a crucial and sometimes “first in the family” step in the door to tertiary education. The Royal Gazette publishes a most useful and comprehensive scholarship supplement every year and, although the schools do much to assist, the onus is on the family to explore suitable scholarship opportunities and to do all they can to ensure the requirements of the scholarship are met
• We wait, in anticipation, as plans to strengthen the public-school system in Bermuda are implemented. The reality is that there are some students who do not fit the one academic mould that has been cast for senior school graduation. They are very capable young people for whom, for example, a vocational/technical/arts high school certification would be a better fit. Every year that we do not provide another route to graduation for the variety of talents in our school system, we are purposely failing those students and denying the full development of their potential
• There continues to be aspiring public S3 and S4 students who need mentorships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training to fulfil their chosen roles in society. The trend of unskilled Bermudians will continue as long as there is the popular but unfortunate practice of importing lower-waged skilled persons from overseas. We repeat the plea for more employers to embrace the community responsibility that once was and, with patience and supervision, mentor and train interested S3 and S4 students to optimal skill levels
• We applaud the Government’s workforce development initiatives, entrepreneurship initiatives and the 100 businesses’ recent efforts to hire and train Bermudians. We also recognise the increasing efforts of international business to introduce high school students to that world before graduation, and therefore widen their options for further study
• Parents, families and community members must not give up their support once the student graduates from high school; they remain a work in progress, a work that one day we will look at with pride. We can increase our efforts to assist with the development of a positive work ethic, explain and practise that salaries are commensurate with experience and skill while modelling and fortifying along the way
• This year’s graduates repeat sage advice for future graduates: get organised, set goals and stay focused on them, do not procrastinate with class assignments, keep in touch with your teachers, connect with student services, ask questions, keep company with peers who have positive attitudes, aim to raise your grade point average each quarter, learn from your mistakes and plan to make a difference
Bermuda knows the unfortunate results of those who feel frustrated and who may be tempted into illegitimate roles.
Encouraged, as we see a small but deliberate improvement, we therefore repeat: it benefits us all to embrace the responsibility that ensures that these and all of our senior students are assisted in every way possible, and are guaranteed positive futures in their homeland. In speaking more positively about our young people and continuing to be more supportive of their intentions, we have all that we need for a safe, happy and continually thriving community.
• Cheryl-Ann Griffin is a retired educator. She served 28 years as a primary school teacher in the public system and 11 years as Literacy Co-ordinator at the Berkeley Institute