Career & Education

'No excuses not to learn!'

Educator urges graduands to excel beyond high school

Sunday, July 30, 2017

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The graduation season may effectively be over and high school may be behind them, but that doesn't mean learning is finished.

In fact, according to well-known educator Dr Renee Rattary, as they move on to higher education or enter the world of work, high school graduates should use every opportunity they get to learn new concepts, ideas and skills, and apply them to their particular situations.

Among the habits she told them they need to practise in order to be successful are set and maintain high standards for themselves, be purposeful, always put their best on display, never settle for mediocrity, and don't make excuses.

Rattary, who is senior manager, Learning, Development and Culture at The Jamaica National Group, was speaking to graduands at Green Pond High School in St James earlier this month. Green Pond High was the top participant in the comprehensive Centres of Excellence programme implemented by The Victoria Mutual Building Society and the former Jamaica National Building Society, now JN Bank. The school achieved significant, positive academic and administrative improvement resulting from its involvement in the change leadership initiative, which was implemented from 2008 to 2013.

“To be successful...don't settle for anything less than the best. If it's not exceptional, then it's not good enough. You have to show up. No mediocrity. No excuses,” Dr Rattray stressed.

In that vein, she also encouraged the Green Pond graduands never to assume that they know enough.

“You can learn anything,” the educator advised. “With the press of a button you can learn everything, and there are no excuses not to learn. You can teach yourself at home,” she emphasised, pointing to the ease with which information can be accessed using the Internet. “Read, read, read, read...” she emphasised.

Referencing Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie's TEDTalk titled The Danger of the Single Story, the JN Group senior manager added that students should not accept stereotypes of themselves, but should continuously tell their own stories so that others may have a full understanding and appreciation about what they can do and achieve.

“You know the stories about Green Pond being a bad school in a bad area and you are not going to come to anything. But you are writing your recommendation every day. Therefore, it means that you have to tell your own story,” she told the students.

She encouraged them, too, to stand up for their beliefs and principles and not to allow others to trample on what they take pride in.

“Stand up for something, know what you believe in, and stand up for what is right every single time,” she said. “Even when you are standing alone...there are lots of things in this world that will come at you, but you should not compromise.”

“And when you stand up, it's not only important to stand up for yourself, it's also important to stand up for others, especially others who don't have a voice,” Dr Rattray counselled.

She encouraged the graduands to establish relationships with mentors.

“You are not going to go anywhere fast if you are around people who are going nowhere; therefore, you need to align yourself with people who are going to challenge you, who will not always agree with you,” she implored.

“Get up, show up, stand up and stay up,” she added.

Principal Michael Ellis also charged his graduates to walk with confidence and reminded them that they are a “big deal”.

“We have been transforming the educational landscape in Jamaica and we have been achieving that by students who I call a 'big deal',” he said to loud cheers, as Christopher Martin's popular song I 'm a Big Deal blared from speakers.

He said that in the past five years, the school, which previously had many students seeking to transfer out, has been transformed into one where many are seeking to transfer in.

Ellis stressed that Green Pond would continue to work to change the mindset of people who pigeonhole the institution as a result of its location in proximity to some of St James' most notorious communities. Also, he emphasised that the school would continue to produce quality students who perform well academically and in sports, as well as work to improve the educational attainment of residents in the surrounding communities.

“Short courses, such as building services and customer service, entrepreneurship, crop production, plumbing, barbering, digital animation, clothing and textile, among others, will be offered to residents in the community to make people more readily employable and create jobs,” he revealed.

More than 100 students graduated from Green Pond on June 30.




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