They made it!
NCU graduates excited about face-to-face graduation
From left, new NCU graduates Khrystophe Rolle; Kristen Bent; Tafarise Gray; coordinator of the university's criminal justice programme, Dr Sharmaine Tapper; Tasha-Kay Swaby and Corporal Azuba Thompson Henry.

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — After a decade working within the St Elizabeth Police Division, Corporal Azuba Thompson Henry is now a college graduate.

On Sunday she proudly attended the first face-to-face graduation ceremony held at Northern Caribbean University since the novel cornavirus pandemic. She attained a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on social work.

"It has been rough balancing work, school, and private life, but it has been worth it, for me, in the end. I feel like I've earned my degree," she told the Jamaica Observer. "I am in the criminal justice system and this degree gives me an open eye to the department of the criminal justice system so, for me, it facilitates my job. It's right up my alley."

Corporal Henry was among the more than 600 people conferred with degrees, diplomas and certificates during the ceremony for NCU's 99th Commencement Service, held under the theme 'Faith fuelled — charting the unknown'.

The graduation class of the NCU's 99th Commencement Service.

Also among the graduating class was 28-year-old Allex Green. It took him seven years to complete his degree in accounting and, even without the delay caused by the pandemic, it has been a tumultuous journey.

"I've financial constraints, I also have family issues. But, despite everything, I never give up — that's what made me a bit different," he said.

"It's been a far, far, far way but I must say I'm here because of my friends who I have met on the journey. They have helped me [with] food; and also the institution, the staff are great. I've worked at the cafeteria, HR department — I've even worked with teachers just to make things meet," he added.

Shamelia Martin, a soon-to-be dietician and nutritionist, also had her share of struggles and said she is happy to close this chapter of her academic life.

Proud NCU graduates, Allex Green and Shamelia Martin, pose during Sunday's ceremony at the university. (Photos: Oneil Madden)

"There was a lot of struggles — financial struggles, the stress of sectionals [exams]... but thanks be to God, I made it. I'm here proud and happy that I've made it and it's finally over," she said.

Like other educational institutions across the world, NCU halted face-to-face graduation ceremonies in compliance with measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. In a nod to repeated warnings that the disease is still a threat, though greatly reduced, some students and staff wore masks during Sunday's graduation ceremony.

However, thoughts of COVID-19 were not enough to dim the immense joy expressed by many, including Raheim Betty, a 28-year-old communication studies graduate.

"It is monumental as I am probably one of the first males in my family to graduate university," he said of the occasion.

He described his academic journey, parts of it made while the pandemic raged, as a "mammoth task".

"I'm just happy to be here with my friends and family, and to really celebrate this moment," he said.

BY ONEIL MADDEN Observer writer

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