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Faculty of Social Sciences Class Valedictorian, Chikara Mitchell.

Jesse Ramdeo

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For graduates, the class of 2020 has become the class of COVID-19, and while the pandemic has uprooted traditional graduation ceremonies, the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus re-created the milestone experience virtually.

The pandemic snuffed away a defining moment in these graduands lives, a rite of passage they have waited for, for years.

Faculty of Social Sciences Class Valedictorian, Chikara Mitchell delivered a poignant and relevant message that rang true for graduands during her speech which was broadcast on Monday.

“Change is the only constant, it is inevitable, it is however how we view these changes and adapt to them that impacts and charts our future.”

According to Mitchell, despite being robbed of the opportunity to cross the stage and tick off a major academic accomplishment, her classmates’ endeavours could not be diminished because of their collective spirit.

“May we charge our lives with integrity. Recently I have witnessed great adaptability from you my fellow graduands in adjusting to recent changes. The genuine love and support poured from the community to others showed me that don’t only care for their own success. It may seem trivial but I smile with every post on social media in their white and blue.”

The UWI’s Chancellor Robert Bermudez praised the graduating class and recognized their role in combating the pandemic.

“You will be needed in the days and months ahead as the region builds its new reality. Our collective capacity to respond to global challenges begin with knowledge, creativity and innovation. You are now going to be part of that process and I urge you to become agents of change.”

Meanwhile, UWI’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said the graduating class had been tested not only by their professors but by a pandemic and managed to rise above all circumstances by being resilient and resourceful, he also congratulated the administration. Beckles noted that Times Higher Education had given the UWI a triple first global ranking, topping over 150 universities in the region.

“We have been ranked in the top one per cent of the finest universities in Latin America and the Caribbean from a field of over five thousand universities and we have been ranked in the top one per cent of the finest universities in the world within our age cohort.”