In the presence of the Right Hon. Perry Christie and accompanying dignitaries, thirteen students graduated from Every Child Counts. The Commencement Exercise took place in the morning of June 10 at St Francis de Sales Catholic Church.
After the entrance of the Prime Minister and his entourage and the procession of the graduates, who entered two at a time following tempo steps, the ceremony proceeded with the usual singing of the National Anthem and Pledge. An opening prayer was led by David Cote and the welcome address was brought by MC, Vernelle Carey.
Graduations for the children and parents of ECC are always emotional, but the June 10 ceremony was made even more so by the down- to- earth address of the Prime Minister who related his own struggle with his son as a parent of a special child.
As he stepped towards the podium, the Prime Minister went over to the graduates, congratulating them one by one. He then started his speech by acknowledging Lynn Major, saying that there was a place in Heaven for her.
He went on and narrated how he had been expelled from high school after two years of attendance. Noting how at the time learning disorders were not understood as well as they are today, he expressed his gratitude towards the people who believed in him and made him believe in himself.
“As a result, look where I am today.” said Mr. Christie.
He introduced the members of his entourage one by one, explaining that among them were parents of special children. He explained that he intended to use ECC as a model for a school that was being built in Nassau.
“You have a model that should be an example and a guide as to what could be achieved,” he told Ms. Major, mentioning also the Training Center that was being built as an extension to Every Child Counts School.
He then addressed the graduates, letting them know that he was aware that they had worked exceptionally hard to get their diplomas.
“I know that you have exceptional gifts to share,” said the Prime Minister. “Whatever your gifts, I encourage you to use them and share them. People may call you disabled, but your achievement proves that you are very able,” he assured them.
During his address, Prime Minister Christie praised the support of the Abaco community towards the school. He commended the teachers and the people who had committed to assist the ones who were weak, among them the owner of Emerald Organics Ltd. Farm for training students in farming.
He promised to put in place a facility where special children would be maintained and occupied.
“I am here to support you,” he said, explaining that the Government was working closely with Reach and the Dawn Syndrome Association in order to support centers in the Family Islands.
He acknowledged the help of the Catholic Diocese which provided the land where ECC is located and where the school in New Providence will be.
Following the address of the Prime Minister, teacher Marsden Lawley introduced the Salutatorians: Carlos Pinder and Calvin Pinder and Valedictorian, Richia Wright. He explained why each student was deserving of their award, describing their personalities and qualities.
Ms. Major then thanked the Prime Minister and the other dignitaries for attending and announced that two students, Blake Russell and Calvin Pinder, were already working as apprentices with the further possibility of employment. She mentioned how rewarding her experience had been working with the students, saying “we are experiencing our humanity because of them.”
After each students had received their award certificates, handed out to them by the Prime Minister and District Superintendent for Education, Dr. Lenora Black, the ceremony ended with Pastor Earlyn Baillou’s remarks and closing prayer.