NorthGate College Co-chairman Dr. Marlon Jameson, Director NGC, Ms. Yolande La Pierre, Mrs Woodroffe, Mr. Graham Taylor, Senior Associate Elder, Elijah Centre and Company Secretary NGC; Mrs. Cecile Taylor, First Director NGC; Senior Elders of KCN TT, other Congress WBN leaders; distinguished guests, NGC faculty and staff; families, friends, students, and to the grandaunts, I offer my heartfelt congratulations. I am delighted to be here today to address you all.
It gives me great confidence to know that we have such incredible young leaders who are going to be remaking the world in so many different ways. You all have the tools to do things that no other generation has done before.
Advances in information and communications technology have broken down barriers that once kept countries, markets and cultures apart. Technology has facilitated the creation of a global economy that is more integrated and interconnected than ever before.
In our technology-driven economy, companies can anchor jobs wherever there is an Internet connection and human resource willing to do the work. This means our children here in St Augustine are growing up competing with children not only in Trinidad and Tobago or the Caribbean, but in Shanghai, Rio De Janeiro, San Francisco, Johannesburg and Karachi as well. What matters today, more than ever, is not what you do or where you live, but what you know.
We need to give all our students opportunities to grow as fast and reach as far as they can. At the same time, we must also ensure that all our students are equipped to navigate and dominate the increasingly challenging world.
Education is the critical driving force behind innovation. Innovation helps us create new economic opportunities and solve vexing social challenges. Curiosity, critical thinking and a strong foundation in math, science, languages and arts are all necessary if we are to have a workforce capable of competing for the high-tech jobs of the future.
We cannot secure a permanent place in the global economy without scientific and technological advancements, and, indeed, without an unprecedented level of technological progress.
The simple truth is innovation requires innovators. If we want to raise a generation capable of competing, innovating and taking their place in the world of tomorrow, we must relevantly educate them today.
You cannot plan innovation. You cannot plan invention. You can, however, prepare for it. You can develop people with the right attitude, the right mindset and the right self-concept. We can position ourselves to take on the future.
We often hear talk about the vital importance of education — about how improving our schools is key to our future. But, as with so many critical issues of our day, upgrading the education system has received more talk than action. That failure to act is putting our society in jeopardy.
The leadership decisions taken regarding education today will shape our future for generations. They will help determine not only whether our children have the chance to fulfil their God-given potential, but whether we as a society will retain the identity that defines us.
The benefit of education reform goes beyond creating an empowered individual to producing an empowered society. Put another way, without a workforce trained in math, science and technology, and imbued with a fundamental understanding of their responsibility to forge a moral society, our economy will grow less, our companies will innovate less, and our regard for values and ethics will be less.
This is simply not an acceptable outcome.
Every day, it seems, faith in our institutions, and those entrusted to govern them, is eroded. Every day we receive a steady stream of sensationalism and scandal with the underlying message that suggests change is not possible.
Left unchecked, these messages will easily penetrate the minds of our youth, mocking their conviction, dulling their ambition, marring their identity, draining their sense of worth. The subliminal taunt is that you can’t make a difference; that you won’t be able to close that gap between life as it is and life as you want it to be.
As challenging as things may be, you have the capacity to overcome. NorthGate College is no ordinary school and you are no ordinary graduating class. You are leaders. Leaders lead.
There is a leadership void that your time at NorthGate College has uniquely prepared you to fill. You have to see this as your right. You have to believe this as your destiny.
And as someone who also wants that future — that better, more preferred future — I am pleased to announce a new initiative that we at NorthGate believe can serve as a model for other schools here at home, and across the earth.
NorthGate College is taking tangible steps to ensure that students as well as staff are appropriately equipped to lead in the digital age. Soon we will be launching the BrightPath Jumpstart program pilot project at NorthGate College. Jumpstart is a unique initiative that involves industry practitioners, educators, university representatives, and other professionals drawn from corporations and professional organizations around the world— who work together to expose young people to their technology driven future.
The BrightPath Jumpstart NorthGate Pilot will involve implementation of:
• Campus-wide broadband Internet access
• Audio Video Educational Library (local and web-sourced)
• Technology Infused Classroom Learning
• Faculty and Student Mentor Training
• Extra-Curricular Support and Professional Mentoring
The Jumpstart process will allow students to test their interests and apply their knowledge and aptitude in a real-life setting, working with professionals who have chosen to share their insights and expertise.
We can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best school in all the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfil your responsibilities.
It is your commitment to make a difference that matters most. It is about your capacity to retain the positive values you have received and draw life-long lessons from your experiences at NorthGate College.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learned in science and math to cure diseases, develop new technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gained in history and social studies to help combat poverty and homelessness, fight crime and battle discrimination. You’ll need the creativity, insight and ingenuity you developed in all your classes to build organizations that innovate and provide relevant solutions. Most importantly, you will need the principles and values you have been exposed to, to make our nation more ethical, fair and moral.
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Now I know it’s not always easy to be the best you can be. Some of you may have challenges in your personal lives that can make it hard to focus on education. You may not always have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. There may not always be enough money to get all the things you think you need. You may encounter friends who pressure you to lower your standards and do things you know are not right or appropriate. At the end of the day, the circumstances of your life do not define you. Your future is defined by the choices you make each day.
You will not love every subject you study. You will not always click with every teacher. Not every course or assignment will seem relevant to your life at the time you are doing it. And, as many of you will have already discovered, life offers no guarantee that you will succeed at everything the first time you try.
But you know what? That’s OK. Failing means you are trying. Without trying we will never have a shot at succeeding. You must never let your failures define you. Instead, let them teach you.
You must now go out into the next stage of your lives free from the fear of making mistakes. Mistakes allow you to learn and to innovate and try new things, and that’s a culture of innovation that is going to create the next great opportunities for us all of you as you come to run the world.
Remember, every single one of you has something you are good at; something you have been gifted with. Each one of you has something positive to offer. Right here in this hall are future authors, app developers, architects, artists, fashion designers, journalists, animators, multimedia specialists, musicians, businessmen, scientists, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, engineers and educators.
You have a responsibility to yourself to discover what your gift is. I want you to always remember:
- Your unprecedented access to information is the seed for new knowledge and new opportunity.
- Your creativity and ideas will forge new innovations and shape a new reality.
- Your values and moral strength will define our social order and determine our nation’s character.
- You will give our aspirations for a better future expression and life.
Graduate class, be assured, we believe in you. Stay true to the principles you received. In so doing you will continue to represent NorthGate always. In doing this you represent the God of NorthGate and you help fulfil our mandate of Reformation Through Education.
Thank you, God bless you, and congratulations to you all.