Look for the helpers

By Glen Herbert In the wake of 9/11, Fred Rogers took to the airwaves to talk to children about when something catastrophic happens. Speaking as much to the adults watching as to the kids, he said “always look for the helpers. Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” You, me, people all around the world are experiencing another inexplicable time. And while the shock has been slower to set in—it seemed like a cold at first, or just another seasonal flu bug—it came and is still coming. We’re not getting past this quite yet. Not this week or the next, or even the one after that. Its economic effect will be lasting and persistent. I was lucky to get to Bequia this March, this before we really knew what was happening all around us. While there, I met with some helpers. I met with teachers from across the island to hear their thoughts on how we can support what they’re doing with their students. They’d like to grow digital literacies, so we talked about what was needed there. (I’m happy to say that we now have chromebooks at the Lower Bay School, Paget Farm Government, Bequia Anglican Primary, Bequia SDA Primary, Bequia Community High School, and the Learning Center.) They talked, too, about what it means to teach; how, while it’s about ABCs and times tables, it’s also about encouraging aspirations and growing curiosities. I wish you could have heard them, and its sad that we don’t get a chance to see what teachers really do each day. Whether they’re standing at the board, or working one-on-one to read through a difficult passage, or marking a test, they’re making an expression of care. They’re helping. On the Saturday morning when I was down I met with the junior sailors and talked to the coaches while the kids set off into the harbour to race around the buoys. They’re doing great things, better than you likely are able to imagine. In talking about the program, Rose Kaye said to me, “there’s no point if you’re not changing lives.” And they are. (See “Success at the JSAB” below.)  Once home I was in touch with Gabby Ollivierre. She’s fine, of course, and as adaptable and resilient as ever. She’s completing her two-year degree online and, prior to the COVID shutdown, had been interning at a prominent restaurant in Calgary. But I was saddened when I received an email this week from the president’s office at SAIT—that’s the college Gabby’s been attending—saying that the graduation ceremony is cancelled. It’s just an event, of course, but it was also a point Gabby’s life. She’s come a long way, and that was going to be her celebration. There would have been a lot of people there with her, in mind at least, though some were also looking forward to making the trip in person.  It’s not catastrophic. She’s doing well, the sailors are doing well, the teachers are missing the kids, but they’re doing OK too. But we all need something. We need stuff, and food. Right now I’d like grilled fish on a green salad with a side of Hairoun from Mac’s. On my last night before coming back to Canada in a rush, that’s what I ordered. “Why do you always order the same thing?” the server asked, laughing. We talked about where I’m from, the virus, the sense of uncertainty with whatever might happen next. Indeed, the best thing she gave me that night was just that: connection. We all need that, too.  Truly, it doesn’t take much. Just a smile, a nod, a little joke. Thankfully we don’t need to stand within six feet of each other in order to make an expression of care. We can send a text, make a call, Zoom, wave at each other on Facebook. This is also true: the communities of Bequia will feel this pandemic in ways that the rest of the world won’t, and some will feel it harder and longer than many can imagine. But there will be helpers. At the end of that address in 2001, Fred Rogers said, “Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy and light and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbour and to yourself.” Whatever it is, it’s worth it. Today, tomorrow, next month. We can do this. To sign up for our monthly newsletter, click here.

What is it like to be Jamell Ollivierre?

by Glen Herbert What is it like to be Jamell Ollivierre? I can’t answer that question, of course—certainly we can’t really know what it’s like to be anyone other than who we are—though the outlines are there. I met with him one morning at the patio of Keegan’s in Lower Bay, just off the beach, the waves rolling in and out in the background. He’s soft spoken, but certainly not meek. You can see he’s thinking big thoughts, if not necessarily feeling the need to say all of them out loud. Jamell is a child of the island, to be sure, though ironically not comfortable on the sea that surrounds it. While many students take the ferry every day to attend high school on St. Vincent, he opted to stay with an uncle through the week. Otherwise, sea sickness would have put an end to an education. That’s not a barrier to higher learning that most of the world can associate with— sea sickness—though it was the first of many that are unique to young people in the region. In can be a difficult path in all kinds of ways. “I wasn’t like the other kids,” he says trailing off as he does. It’s less a statement of fact than an admission of his predicament—a nod to the arc of his life, of who he is and who he has been, growing up in Lower Bay. “It was humbling,” he says, if able to admit the joys as well. As we walk through Lower Bay he points out where he played soccer with cousins and neighbourhood kids in a stand of trees just in from the rocky part of the beach. It was idyllic in a way, though even from when he was very young, Jamell knew he wanted something more. He wanted to learn about science, healing, and systems. He wanted to become a doctor. “Some of my classmates, when I told them, a lot of them used to laugh,” he says. He gets it. There has never been a primary-care doctor from Bequia, just as there has never been an astronaut from Tibet. It’s not impossible. It just hasn’t happened and, in its way, can seem a bit distant. “Just the thought and the idea of becoming a doctor seems silly to most people,” he says. “But it wasn’t to me.” What’s it like to be Jamell Ollivierre? That comment—”but it wasn’t to me”—is a good hint. He saw a breadth of possibility that others maybe didn’t. He saw things in himself that others couldn’t visualize in themselves. He wasn’t like the other kids. Jamell attended Bequia Anglican Primary, then St. Vincent Grammar School, then college and now university. He attributes much of what he’s accomplished to the support of his family and his mother in particular. She pushed him into positions of leadership, even if that’s not the word she would use. “My mom, she encouraged me to hang out with teenage guys that play football. To hang out with them, encourage them, help them with their homework, ‘so they can see you as an influence.’” He is an athlete, and has competed regionally. He also has long been a volunteer with the Red Cross, recently as part of the executive committee. One of the tasks he organizes is flood monitoring in a village on St. Vincent. After heavy rains, he goes door to door, taking stock. Did the water come into your house? Is there any erosion? Are your foundations intact? He writes up what he finds and reports back to the Red Cross. Those reports help inform the level and type of response.  It’s not the kind of work that garners much thanks or even notice, but he has a lot to give, and he regularly gives it. “I must admit I’m a sore loser,” he admits when pressed. “I like sticking to what I want, I like digging into it. That’s what influences me to continue.” He’s currently in his second year of medical school at the American University of St. Vincent. That in itself is an achievement, though he knows better than anyone that it’s one point in a much longer journey, the completion of which remains anything but certain. “A majority of the students live close to the school, but I live far from the school. So getting to school is troublesome.” He gets up early each morning, goes to sleep late each night. The days are long, but he feels everything is worth every effort he’s able to give. It’s interesting, for one, and pathology, in particular, has peaked his interest. “It helps to understand how different diseases can affect the system,” he says. “How to look and how to understand how the body is effected by pathogens … it helps you to understand how fragile the human body is.” (In reference to the ratio of time spent to lessons learns, he says, “it’s very high yield.”)      Yes, he’s not like other kids, even if that’s perhaps true in varying degrees for all of us. “I know what I have to do. I know what I need to do to make my dreams become reality. So that’s what I’m doing.” In contrast, he admits “a lot of people on the island who are my age, they limit themselves. A lot of them get into drugs, smoke, drink … they limit their sight or their insights. And I didn’t want to limit myself.” There are two more years of medical school, then specializations, rotations, exams, and fundraising to support it all. He’d like to do at least some of his training out of country, so there will be visa applications, travel and living expenses as well. “To be honest,” he says, “the St. Vincent hospital [Milton Cato Memorial] is not well equipped. It’s become very limited in what they can teach.” He’s well aware of the complexities of studying abroad will bring. “I need to think three steps ahead.” He’s able to do that, in

Crossing the digital divide

By Tylisha Miller It has been a few months since the chromebook project was launched at The Learning Center. Since then it has gone from 3 chromebooks to an astonishing 8, thanks to amazing donors. Previously only a few kids would have access to them due to the small quantity but now we’re able to use them in a full classroom set up seeing as our classes do not exceed six to seven children. The teachers currently use them for reading classes, spelling classes and even mathematics exercises. The children, most of which have not yet had exposure to computers at home or at school are all so eager to dive into the world of electronic learning. Due to the lack of computer access in the primary schools, kids are thrown into it when they get to high school with little to no knowledge on how to use one. With this program our children will now enter high school with all they need to tackle computer based subjects. This program is a great start for these kids and will prove to be the jumpstart these kids needed. 

Monelle’s Story

by Tylisha Miller and Elizabeth Zook Four years ago, a dishevelled five-year-old girl came to The Learning Center by herself and said “Please Uncle Ray, Can I come to the Learning Center?” Her sly smile won his heart and his welcoming presence won hers. Monelle was half way through kindergarten but she did not know her colours or her alphabet and could not count correctly to 20. But she wanted to learn and learn she did. She thrived on the individual attention she received at the Center. Usually first to arrive and last to leave, she loved the crayons and colouring books she did not have in her home. She laughed at the puppets and cuddled the stuffed animals. Her teachers used coloured sticks and bottle tops to teach her to count and eventually to add and subtract numbers. Today, Monelle is at home in the Learning Center. While still behind her age level in reading skills, she loves the reading games and flash cards used in her class. Last year she learned to identify the nouns, verbs, and adjectives in sentences that she can read. This year looks very promising for her. She often wanders into the Learning Center library, chooses a book and attempts to read it.  She’s also been working with the Chromebooks, entering the digital age while she improves her reading and math skills (seen in red at right). On her off days she comes in to do reading exercises on the Khan Academy Kids app one of the academic programs that teachers have been piloting with their students. Monelle rewards her teachers with smiles, hugs and flowers she picks on her way to the Learning Center after her school day. She has a family at the Center, one that will support her, love her, and cheer on her every move. Monelle’s next big challenge will be the multiplication tables but she is still eager to learn and, inch by inch, she is growing confidence and academic ability. The Learning Center and its volunteers will be there to support her and applaud her progress along the way. Go Monelle!

Chromebook information night

Bringing Chromebooks to Island Schools By Orthwin Simmons, Bequia Community High School Several teachers were invited to a meeting with personnel from the Grenadines Initiative on October 24th at the Learning Center. The meeting was held to discuss the Chrome Book Program the organization has launched to put Chrome Books in all the island’s schools. The hosts exposed the teachers to the Chrome Book’s features and wanted feedback on its possible inclusion in the teaching and learning processes in our schools This is a welcomed initiative.  I was hooked on book’s light weight and sturdiness. They would survive the usual daily activities and then some from our students and can be moved around quickly and easily without fear of damage from simple mishaps (unlike the others we had). The all black design and limited openings (ports) along with the sturdy hinges limit dust and water damage and screen separation. The speakers are audible from a good distance and it boots up pretty quickly and runs quite smoothly. There is no internal storage and while some may see this as a negative, I see it as a plus. There is plenty of free standalone cloud storage, plus those that come with emails, and students can always purchase a portable drive. Having no memory extends their shelf life and students learn to manipulate online resources more efficiently. A significant benefit is the access it gives to free online resources and the tech skills students can develop while interacting with the Chrome Book. I am particularly pleased because by getting the Chrome Books into the primary schools, students are exposed at an earlier age to technology as a learning resource and possibilities while they are at their more curious, imaginative stage of development. It provides the opportunity to teach our students to become manipulators of technology and not mere users. Additionally, with earlier exposure comes greater success in Information technology at the secondary and tertiary levels. The greatest impact for me would be the assistance and access it would provide to online resources which can help teachers target and reduce the literacy/numeracy deficit faced  by so many of our students. Moreover, it would increase the opportunities for individual assistance in large classes and create avenues for collaboration among all involved. I do hope this initiative takes off. Teachers are willing and ready to use the resources in whatever ways possible to enhance the teaching and learning processes. We welcome it.  

Why do we go to school?

The most important reasons aren't always the ones you think of first by Glen Herbert   “It’s very Harry Potter,” says Michael Simmonds, chuckling a bit as he does. I was speaking to him about what Havergal College does best, a school in Toronto where he is vice principal. Havergal is one of the foremost girls' schools in Canada, and regularly ranks among the top schools in the nation. It really does have ivy-covered walls, and the fact that he's comparing it to a fictional school for wizards feels a bit wilting. Hence the chuckle. He continues, “But, you know, I’m serious. Harry Potter lived in a closet, hid his special powers, knew he was different, and had to go to Hogwarts to be empowered. There’s a lot to be said for bringing a group of like people together … It’s a culture of empowerment.” For everything that Havergal does—its list of alumni reads like a list of Canadian who’s who—it’s interesting that, when asked about the quality of the school, he doesn't talk about outcomes, he talks about the culture and the learning environment. We too often think about education in terms of the stuff we find there: desks, books, curriculum, lessons. We also, I think wrongly, too often think of education in transactional terms: do this now, so that you can do something else later, such as get a job, or enter post-secondary studies. The lesson of Harry Potter is that the real strength of successful schools community. The best educational environments are personal, relational. Karrie Weinstock says that “no child learns math before she learns the connection with her teacher. If the connection isn’t there, she’s never going to learn as well. This is the enduring value of connection and community.” Weinstock is a long-time educator, and currently vice-principal at Branksome Hall, another prominent private school in Toronto. Like Simmons, for her the strength of the school isn't the buildings or the books, but the relationships that form there. When I asked her what makes a school a great school, she said “it’s a million small conversations” namely those between students, faculty, and peers. "I believe every girl comes to school every day wanting to be the best she can be. And then to meet adults and peers in that environment who are similarly aspiring—that's a very good mix. That to me is a good school.” " ... the place where citizens prevail ... " The Learning Center was formed in 2003 to be that kind of environment, even if the founders perhaps didn’t think of it explicitly in those terms. Tylisha Miller, a teacher and director at The Learning Center in Port Elizabeth is like Simmonds in that she doesn't see her work as simply teaching, or tutoring. She sees her role as one of listening, and supporting, and recognizing their special powers: the skills, talents, and personalities that students bring with them into the classroom. She describes it as an environment “where they don't feel pressured but instead feel safe, loved and cared for.” "For me it was not employment," says Miller of finding a role at the center, "it was my new found family, my home." It’s a place where, says Miller, kids "are given the attention needed to excel." It’s a community in the way that John McKnight, director of the Community Studies Program at the Center for Urban Affairs at Northwestern University, defines it: “the place where citizens prevail.” Why we do what we do The support that we give, through the Grenadines Initiative, is in the service of those larger goals. That’s why we listen to teachers, first, before sending stuff—they know best what their students need, and we want to help them deliver it. Because, ultimately, the real value of school is the people you find there. People like Morrie Hercules, who inspired other people, through example, to join the effort, including Felicia Frederick. People like Devvy King, who think about best practices, and are as open to their students as they are to new ideas. Or Jan Providence, who is excited about raising chickens with her students. She should be excited. It’s great work. It’s not really about chickens, of course, it’s about the quality of the relationships that hands-on learning can engender. That’s why kids go to school: to grow those kinds of relationships. To grow their sense of who they are and gain a confidence in bringing their talents to bear in their communities. To enter a space where people laugh at their jokes, and ache in the same places. A space where they know, without question: these are my friends, this is my school.

Education in the islands

You can't get there from here. But we're working to change that. by Glen Herbert Often the barriers to education to students in the Caribbean are surprising to people who haven’t experienced them first hand. In part that’s because the distances—temporal, geographic—can be deceptive. The Grenadines seem—culturally, on a map—so close to us. And they are. They, like Canada, are part of the Commonwealth, and the Queen is on their currency, too. They speak English as a first language, they’re in our hemisphere, and are as far from Canada’s borders as Vancouver is from Montreal. The US, of course, is closer still—Bequia to Miami is the roughly same distance as that from Miami and New York. As such, it’s easy to imagine that they would have ready access to the same academic resources and institutions as Canadians, Americans, or anyone throughout the English-speaking world. But they don’t. Academically, they’re often heartbreakingly isolated, something that was brought home recently when a young woman approached us for support. She had received a full scholarship to the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. Scouted as an elite athlete, it covered room, board, and tuition. A full ticket. Given her success athletically to date, with the right coaching it’s all but guaranteed that she’d represent SVG at international competitions, including the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. She’s that good. Her academic record is strong, as is her drive to succeed. But ... one more thing … The one expense not covered by the scholarship was travel, which is why she approached us. She also hadn’t yet secured a visa to study in the US. For Canadian students, getting that visa would be a slog through some paperwork and red tape, but otherwise more of a bother than anything else. For her, and all students in SVG, it’s a very different story. It means a number of trips to Barbados—the US doesn’t have consular service in SVG, and neither does Canada—including one to apply, which must be done in person, another a week or two later for an interview. If successful, she’d have to return again to pick up her passport. This is all further complicated by the fact that her high school is not recognized in the US, so she needed to get an academic audit before the university would accept her application to the program. And, of course, she needed a letter of acceptance to a degree program to secure a student visa. And around it goes. While the offer of financial aid was made at the same time it would be for any student—universities issue them all on the same date, no matter where the student lives—the system wasn’t created with her in mind and, unwittingly, all but excludes her. So, there she sits, with a letter of offer of complete financial aid, to a world-class academic institution, with a world-class athletics program, that she perhaps won't be able to use. She’s got the talent, the aspirations, certainly the drive. But if she can’t get the visa in time, come September, the offer will lapse. Bridging the gaps That’s an extreme case, though serves as a stark reminder of how isolated students in SVG can be, and how exasperating the reasons for that isolation often are. Her story is the tip of a sizeable iceberg, one all too familiar to communities throughout the Caribbean. Access to a quality secondary education may be barred simply by the cost of the daily ferry ride to the mainland. The development of innovative curriculum and delivery may be barred simply because there isn’t federal funding available for classroom supports. Success on matriculation exams is often obviated through lack of tutorial support of a kind that students elsewhere take for granted and have easy access to. Small things, perhaps, but unchecked, too often aren’t overcome. That’s why we’re developing the kinds of programs we are: The Learning Centre provides, for free, tutoring in preparation for the statewide exams. The scholarship program provides a means of getting them school each day. The Chromebook program, which will be further developed starting this fall, will help deliver current, sound, levelled classroom resources. The Junior Sailing Program offers tutorials and workshops to prepare sailing students for success in their application for RYA accreditation. This opens up job prospects within the tourism industry. STEM initiatives support development of the delivery of the science and technology curricula. All of those contribute to the overall goal of letting young people know that the world isn't all that far away, and that their dreams are closer than they think.

Growing the gardening program at the Sunshine School

Thanks to a generous donation, we have been able to build the gardening program at the Sunshine School in Port Elizabeth. In addition to building beds and sourcing materials, the donation has allowed us to employ Elvin Lawrence to work in the garden and support in teaching the kids the benefits of vegetable gardening. So far, they have harvested watermelon, carrots and green peppers in addition to the existing bananas, which are mature and have been bearing fruit for some time. The students love going out in the garden and getting their hands in the soil. There are currently ten students involved in the programme. Two days per week five students go to the garden. This number and frequency will be adjusted as the need arises. Though Bequia has recently experienced a long, hot dry season, boxes were constructed and laid out in the garden area and seeds planted. Soil was sourced and boxes filled. Students, with teachers, have been transplanting seedlings and preparing beds for transplanting. The benefits of a school garden are many and varied. Gardening provides a connection between the students and the real world. They learn from experience that food comes from plants in the garden and not just from a supermarket shelf. They learn agricultural skills and concepts which are integrated with several subject areas such as Maths, Science and Language. They also learn patience, as they must wait for plants to grow and mature before producing fruit, requiring them to focus as they take care of the plants. Cooperation and team work is a must as each student plays a part in the development of the garden. Social skills are developed as students and teachers communicate. As students develop the knowledge and skills of growing and taking care if a variety of vegetables so too does their confidence. Non-readers or lower functioning students learn through seeing and doing, and hands-on skills. They learn colours, shapes, sizes, smell and tastes. Older students learn math concepts, such as problem solving, measurement, estimating, counting, and data collection. They learn science skills such as how plants grow and what they need to grow: sunlight, water, and food. They learn about using fertilizers and making compost. In home economics classes students are able to follow recipes or develop their own using the produce from the garden. Students will be able to transfer skills learnt at school to develop their own vegetable gardens at home, which then can be used for self or for sale. Most importantly for them they get to eat healthy, nutritious food that they grew themselves.

The Sargassum crisis

An initiative taken jointly with Action Bequia may be one of the first steps in addressing the problem. It certainly won't be the last. By Glen Herbert   "This may be the worst algal bloom in the history of mankind on earth that we've ever seen," says George Buckley, a professor of the Harvard University Extinction School. (Buckley has created an excellent backgrounder on the problem, which can be viewed here.) That algae, sargassum, is a weed, though the potential for it to affect lifestyles and livelihoods is substantial. When researchers use the word "crisis" in reference to the bloom, they are thinking specifically of its ability to impact to the economies throughout the Caribbean. To date, nearly nothing has been done to counteract the effects in a way that answers the sheer size of the bloom. Some hotels in Mexico have been using sargassum as a medium in which to grow mushrooms. Other communities, including that of Mustique, rake the beaches every day at dawn. Those things are a starting point, to be sure, though they will soon be overcome by the scale of it all. Says Buckley, "the treatment that's being done so far is at best reactive. We really need to look quickly beyond that in terms of controls," including harvesting it in greater quantities, and establishing recycling facilities where it can be prepared for industrial use. We've partnered with Action Bequia and to submit an application for a major grant to the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), a World Bank organization, targeting the problem. As noted in that grant application, this isn't one that can be solved easily, nor is it one that can be addressed without significant partnership across the island and throughout the region. We believe that education is an important first step, both on island and beyond. If you have any ideas for student programs, we'd like to hear them. As happens so often, it's the work and the voices of children that can gain a unique purchase in the international commons. The fact that SVG has been elected to the UN Security Council puts the country, its communities, and its organizations in a unique position. This could be an opportunity to play a significant leadership role. That might begin with raising awareness at the UN, using the issue as a means of lobbying for a greater engagement with climate change initiatives. David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote this week about a Yale University study that found that, since 2011, the number of Americans who say they are concerned about climate change has risen substantially. He reports that the primary reason cited by respondents was that they were "directly experiencing climate change impacts." The second was, "hearing about climate change impacts." That's a story that Vincentians can tell. Bequia, to be sure, has had a longer period of direct experience than the majority of the world population, first with the rising sea levels—there used to be beach off the Belmont Walkway not all that long ago—and now this. It goes without saying that most people in the world don't know what sargassum is, how it can affect them, or how they contribute to its growth. The irony is that they are one of the causes—the runoff from farms in North America is one of the main contributors to the crisis. Buckley notes that "help is needed from all fronts, particularly [from] those that are not on the islands. The victims can only clean up so much." It's a global problem, not a regional one, and it requires a global response. How the world responds will provide an analogue for how it will respond to later examples of the effects of climate change. Ultimately, this isn't a story about how we treat the environment, it's a story about how we treat each other. We don't have any answers, but Action Bequia and the Grenadines Initiative are keen to work with local projects and initiatives. We're also able to accept dedicated resources from benefactors in Canada, the US, and Britain to support those activities. An important and simple first step is to join the Bequia Sargassum Action Group, either online, via their facebook group, or in person. Please do that. Sometimes it's not the big things that change the world: the treaties, the work of presidents and prime ministers. Maybe this will be one of those cases. Perhaps it begins with raising our voices, both within the community and beyond. Bending the ear of local politicians, certainly, is indicated. Delivering messages by and on behalf of the local student population is too. Given that Vincentians may have easier access to the halls of the United Nations puts us in a position not only of opportunity, but responsibility. SVG is the only Caribbean nation to have that pulpit. In many ways, the next two years may prove to be a very interesting time.

Learning to fly

Kadeen Hazell, Valedictorian  Kadeen Hazell was chosen as valedictorian of his graduating class, representing his cohort of the Essentials Fixed Wing Flight Training at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario. In his address he spoke about how far he'd come, both geographically and conceptually, as well as the challenges he faced. He implored those gathered to "do what you feel passionate about, take chances, go the extra mile, and don’t be afraid to fail." He began by quoting the Greek poet Horace on the effect of adversity:  "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”  —Horace  Faculty, family, friends and graduands of the class of 2019, good afternoon.  My name is Kadeen Hazell and it is my pleasure to address you on behalf of the Essentials Fixed Wing Flight Training Program on this remarkable day. Allow me to give a brief insight into my journey towards my development in this program and highlight a few of the challenges that I’ve faced and overcome to become the person I am today. I migrated from my home island, Bequia, which measures only 7 miles long, 1 mile wide and has a population of 10,000, to the south of Canada to pursue my dreams. I must admit that getting from there to here wasn’t a smooth journey. My aspirations of becoming a pilot, as a youth from Bequia, was beyond a dream; it was beyond the realm of possibility. But I’ve dreamt of being a pilot since I was the age of 5 and it was my objective, my deepest desire to make that dream a living reality. I grew up in a poor and turbulent neighborhood. When my “friends” asked what I would like to be in the future, they all laughed at me when I said a pilot and shook their heads indicating how foolish they thought I was. The one feature that I loved about where I lived was that my house was located a minute’s walk from the airport, so I would look at pilots trying to get their planes on the ground with the vigorous Caribbean trade winds. At the age of 15, when my only goal in life was to further my studies in aviation, I took courses in social sciences.  However, coping with these subjects was only one of the many challenges. I had to travel at 6:00 a.m. via ferry to mainland St. Vincent and I would not return home until 8:00 at night. At age 18, I graduated from the St. Vincent Community College with a distinction in Pure Mathematics, Physics and Geography, but these accomplishments meant very little to me because at that time in my life I did not have sufficient resources to fund my studies in the aviation industry.  I therefore began working with my father, knowing well that this would not be the end of my dream of becoming a pilot. I then met my Canadian guardians Dave Anderson and Christine Anderson, both of whom helped me reach where I am today. At this time, I am publicly expressing my heartfelt gratitude to you both for all that you have done for me, making my dream a reality. With what would seem as the most difficult of challenges conquered, I had visions of myself flying soon. However, to ensure this was what I really wanted, life threw at me some other challenges. For example, the temperature in St. Vincent stays around 25 degrees throughout the year, and this being my first winter, I would say that North Bay has welcomed me with its opened arms. Another basic challenge that I faced was simply living on my own with no family around, and don’t get me started on my cooking skills! I could recall the first time I met Elaine Ross, a devoted individual who also helped me with my transition into the program. Elaine was very enthusiastic and passionate about the flying side of the industry and she told me everything that I needed to know to become not just a pilot but an outstanding pilot. At the beginning of the program, my colleagues and I were very isolated, and being the only international student with a tad bit of language variation made it even more difficult for me to socialize with the others. However, as time progressed and the studies began my class blended and we became close friends, probably too close for the instructors to handle from time to time. The Canadore program was flawlessly outlined with the bulk of the theory in the month of November, but with consistency comes perfection. At this point of my life in Canada I was beginning to feel comfortable with the weather, the new lifestyle and all the various new customs. I will like to say thank you to Rob, our senior flight instructor, who stuck with us throughout all of the obstacles that we encountered in the Fixed Wing side of the program. He was strict at times when the job had to be done, but always a comedian in the classroom; a true inspiration and role model. In December of 2018, the fixed wing side of the class was already prepared to write our private license exam. The competition was on in January, infusing the final touches to mold us into the figure we needed to be to pass our exams. I recall a quotation my Dad used regularly as I was growing up. It is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous words.  He said and I quote “The heights by great mean reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” As a little boy I never truly understood what my dad meant by this quotation, but as time progressed I learned that nothing in life worth having comes easily. Nothing in life worth having is given to you without a challenge and I urge everyone here today to face your challenges with a positive and confident attitude knowing that anything is possible if you set