Keonna Simon is GHS 2020 valedictorian
THE Girls’ High School 2020 graduating class has been challenged to fight against fear as they prepare to journey into the next phase of their lives.
The 142 girls graduated last Thursday, September 10, two months later than expected, in a ceremony at the Arnos Vale Playing Field under the theme, “Fearlessly facing the future”.
Keonna Simon, this year’s valedictorian rebranded her graduating class as the year of resilient graduates, as she says they have endured much in their final year of secondary school.
This included having to complete their external examinations during a pandemic.
“In the moments of fear, we can conjure up so many outcomes and ask so many what ifs, but the truth is, we’ll never truly know the answer to these questions until we dive head first into the situation we are afraid of,” Simon said in her speech.
The teenager added that “we must debunk these feelings to determine whether or not we are in an actual emergency or in a situation in which we lack experience or we will fall susceptible to our thoughts which will have a profound effect in our feelings and ultimately in our reactions.”
Simon said that fear of the unknown and what others would think have often held her back from certain activities.
She described herself as a quiet individual who never expected that she would be able to deliver the valedictory speech.
But she told the audience at Thursday’s ceremony that “we must never assume that quiet is weak and loud is strong”.
Simon further urged her fellow graduates to be warriors and not worriers and break through fear-based lenses that often cloud one’s judgement and prevent persons from seeing situations for what they really are.
“We overcame all our obstacles and thus, I think it is safe to rebrand us as the year of resilient graduates… I cannot wait to see what amazing things we will make of ourselves,” the valedictorian said.
In addition to receiving the Prime Minister’s Award for Student of the Year, Simon was also awarded with the Governor General’s prize for English A, the GHS New York Alumnae Awards for Biology and Chemistry, a special prize for Spanish and the MAVCOM Award for Information Technology.
Lawyer, Ranelle Roberts- Williams was this year’s featured speaker.
And she encouraged graduands to not let fear stop them from achieving their goals.
She noted that due to the pandemic, the girls had to complete their last term of schooling virtually.
“I hope that you will be able to use this novel experience of perseverance, adaptation, courage and strength to guide and inspire you through the remainder of your academic and other life experiences going forward,” Roberts-Williams said.
She noted that the road ahead will be challenging but encouraged graduands to muster the same strength that they have used thus far to tackle the challenges of the future.
The feature speaker told the 2020 graduating class to focus on their own developments and to only look at others for inspiration but not to measure their successes by achievements of others.
“2020 has been an unprecedented year for all of us. I even survived COVID-19 and lived to tell the tale. Apart from God, the future is in your hands and no one else’s. Going forward, I encourage you to take away fear’s power by starving it and instead use every opportunity to master your fears, whatever they may be,” Roberts-Williams, who was this country’s first COVID-19 case, said.
Headmistress, Michelle Beache also spoke at the graduation, which featured song and dance performances from students in the graduating class.
COVID-19 protocols were in effect for last Thursday’s ceremony, which included temperature checks and hand sanitising before entering the stadium.
As outlined in protocols for mass gatherings, names, numbers and addresses for all attendees were also collected upon entry of the venue.