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Halimah DeShong delivers the feature address at the Community College graduation ceremony in Kingstown on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.
Halimah DeShong delivers the feature address at the Community College graduation ceremony in Kingstown on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.
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The 691 students who graduated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC) on Tuesday have been urged to pursue their dreams but to do so as part of and in the interest of community.

“This is your time. Your time to shine, to create, to serve and to do so in community. I invite you to breathe, refresh, prepare yourself for all that is to come,” University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer, Vincentian Halimah DeShong said as she delivered the featured address at the SVGCC’s 15th Annual Amalgamated Graduation Ceremony in Kingstown.

“Go forward. Choose your path wisely, but also be prepared to grant yourself grace for the missteps that are likely to occur. Trust me when I say we do not have it all figured out as we grow from one version of ourselves to the other,” said DeShong, who is head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit at UWI’s campus in Barbados.

Addressing the graduands on the theme “Class of 2024: Create Your Legacy”, DeShong urged them to “always strive to be the best you with every available opportunity and at each stage of your journey”.

She said that setting the standards that SVGCC Director Nigel Scott spoke about, “even when the task might feel mundane, and unwanted is what prepares you for success at that which you most desire”.

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DeShong, a former national netballer, holds a doctorate in sociology of gender and violence and was also part of the Vincentian team at the United Nations when Kingstown held a non-permanent seat on the Security Council from 2020 to 2021

“… creating your legacy is so much larger than an individual exercise,” she told the graduands. “Creating your legacy, plotting your path, has all the more impact when done in service of and in community with others.”

She quoted the poem “Hairouna” by Vincentian Deborah Providence, who holds a doctorate and lectures in literatures in English at the UWI and  Guyanese poet Grace Nichols’ “Praise Song for My Mother”.

The ceremony saw 23 students graduating from the Division of Nursing Education, 60 from the Division of Teacher Education, 247 from the Division of Technical and Vocational Education and 361 from the Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies.

DeShong warned the graduands that she did not have “a toolkit, a checklist or a how-to” on how to create their own legacy.

SVGCC Graduation 2024
Some of the graduands at the Community College graduation ceremony in Kingstown on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Instead of offering a manual on legacy-making, she encouraged them to embrace “the inspiration to be found in the profound and proud history of our nation and region”.

“I dare to say that the Caribbean and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as part of our Caribbean was never created to serve the majority of us,” she said.

The region and SVG, “in the colonial imagination, was never meant to serve the vast majority of our ancestors whose labour and very being were exploited in service of the economic imperatives of a colonial state. Yet here we are. Here you are.”

DeShong recounted the history of the Garifuna and Calinago defence of the country from European colonisation, the anti-colonial struggles of trade union activists in the early to mid-20th century and the Shaker Baptists’ “refusal to be managed as part of a religious orthodoxy”.

She spoke of the early political party activists who “called time on an exploitative colonial regime”.

The academic recounted the work of trade unionist Vincentian Elma Francois to organise her colleague labourers at Mt Bentick factory in Georgetown to secure better working conditions before migrating to Trinidad, where she organised domestic workers in the 1930s.

“Creating your legacy should never be reduced to a personal exercise. In doing the work to enhance societies, the work of creating a society in which everyone thrives, most of our forbearers were not preoccupied with personal-legacy making,” DeShong said.

She, however, encouraged the graduands to own their dreams and to be ambitious and bold about pursuing them.

“Plot and plan your future, continue to set goals in spite of how unattainable they may first appear.

“There is no need for there to be conflict between your personal ambitions and working in service of something larger than yourself,” DeShong told the graduands.

“Those that we today celebrate as part of a pantheon of heroines and heroes, were building a society that they were unlikely to ever enjoy. But guess what? they built it anyway,” she said.

2 replies on “SVGCC graudands urged to pursue dreams in interest of community”

  1. Soufriere Baby says:

    I can advise from my own experience as I was asked to so do. They can take it or leave it. To be clear, it will always be their dreams to pursue. Peace and blessings

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