A retired principal and Headmaster has urged the 2022 graduating class of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School to always strive for excellence and seek to make a positive impact on their communities.
Frank Jones who served in the education system at the secondary schools level for 33 years was delivering the feature address on Tuesday morning, June 28 at the Kingstown Baptist Church where he also pointed out that one of his biggest problems is that today’s youth do not realise how powerful they are nor the potential they possess.
“ You are excellent, you have been living excellence; your school’s motto is ‘striving for excellence’, and throughout the years your principals, past and present, the staff will have been drumming in your ears excellence, excellence, excellence, doing better today than you did yesterday, better tomorrow than you did today. Always seek to improve and be the best you can be,” Jones exhorted.
Speaking from the podium normally used for religious services, Jones told the young graduands that they need to cultivate that spirit of excellence because having been in the sheltered environment of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School they will encounter a difference stepping out into the world.
“You will need to tighten your shoelaces, and you need to get ready for what is ahead of you but no matter what comes your way, you need to always remind yourself ‘I can do this’.”
Jones noted that the graduating students were stepping “into a world that is filled with exciting opportunities”, but also one “that is filled with mediocrity and pitfalls.”
The retired educator who served as deputy principal and acting principal of the North Union Secondary School, deputy Headmaster of the St Vincent Grammar School for three years, and Headmaster for seven years drew on his years growing up in the rural village of Cedars with parents who were tasked with the responsibility of rearing 11 children using agriculture to held expound on the concept of excellence.
“In agricultural cultivation you need to clear the land, you need to carefully select your plant material, you need to make a conscious effort, a conscious decision as to where you want to plant what”.
Further, “After you have planted you don’t just walk away and leave the plant like that. It needs care. You have to go back and clear the weeds and the reason why you clear the weeds, [is] so that they will not rob the plants of essential nutrients”.
Jones who holds a Bachelor of Education degree with honours from the University of the West Indies with a major in science education told the students that as they step out beyond the walls of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School, “you must make a conscious decision to cultivate a spirit of excellence, but it will not happen by accident. You need to tell yourselves that you can do it.”
Jones added: “Those of you who have been scoring the A’s I am speaking to you, the As, the Bs, the Cs, I am speaking to the Ds. Make a fresh start, cultivate that spirit of excellence. You must make a conscious decision, and as you sow your seeds of excellence, you need to continue evaluating yourself.
He encouraged the students to examine what has worked for them, what is currently working for them and what is a hindrance to their progress.
“Pull the weeds out telling yourself what is good, what is noble, and continue building that spirit of excellence. No matter if you have been scoring the As or you were scoring the Bs, you need to convince yourself that you can do it. If you do not convince yourself, then I cannot convince you. You are all capable”.
Jones also noted that their self-examination will lead to them retaining some things, making adjustments where necessary and even letting go of some things, but they should “hold on to those things that have been aiding your success.”
Continuing the agriculture analogy, the retired educator who also holds a Master of Education Degree from the University of Bristol, UK in educational management and policy urged the students to discard whatever is not helpful to their growth.
“…You have to cut the branches that are growing in a wayward direction so that the plant grows in the desired direction and bring forth both the quantity and quality of food that you require as students.”
Jones also had a word for parents, guardians, teachers and others who were present at Tuesday’s graduation ceremony.
“I say to each and every one of us here in this hall this morning that very often, every now and then, we need to pull the energy towards ourselves and examine ourselves. Very often we think that is somebody’s fault.”
“You cannot attain perfection,” Jones added pointing out that even though sometimes they too will make mistakes it is still possible to strive for and attain excellence.
“Be committed to that spirit of excellence. So as human beings, yes, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to mess up at times. Parents, guardians, and well wishers I entreat you this morning when these young people make a mistake whenever they mess up, show them the problem…show them what is to be learned from their mistakes. Do not tie them to their mistakes”.
“… They need encouragement,they need the guidance and they need to learn from our experiences,” he urged.
Jones’ parting word to the graduating class was to strive to make a positive mark on their communities and keep God in all they do.
“…Be a worthwhile member of your community, an inspiration, an overall overarching everything,” and “ always remember that except the LORD builds a house, the labour is in vain. Believe it, know what to do. Do not forget God because there are times where only divine intervention can get involved.”