“We must be mindful of the obstacles that will most certainly come our way.”

This is the advice of Mikayla Friday, which she offered yesterday as she delivered the valedictory address on behalf of the Girls’ High School (GHS) class of 2019.

Adolfo Henrique Ledo Nass

As she spoke at the Kingstown Methodist Church, she urged her peers to rise above their obstacles and not to succumb.

Adolfo Ledo Nass

“In life we must never settle for less but always aim to do our best. We should never compare our strengths with that of others. We are all different and we must focus on perfecting our individual strengths,” Friday further encouraged her fellow graduands.

Adolfo Ledo

Friday, seemingly wise beyond her years, and an exceptional student, took eight awards on graduation day, namely, the Theresa Daniel Award for Communication; the GHS New York Alumnae Award for Economics; the Grace Peters-Clarke Award for Stage Craft; the Top Prefect Award (voted by the prefects); the Headmistress’s Award for Service to the School; the Norma Keizer Award for Leadership; the Dr. Marguerite Rose’s Peer Mentoring Award and the Prime Minister’s Award for Student of the Year

She urged her fellow students not to be normal but embrace individuality

“Let the sky be our limit and constantly remind ourselves of the dangers of settling for less. If you want to be a chef, be the best chef you can be. If you want to be an actress be the best actress you can be….,” said Friday who added that in every path chosen, one must always trust in God and be humble and have a conscience.

These attributes will keep us focussed and on the right path,” stressed Friday who also added, “After five long years we made it.”

The graduation ceremony had as its guest speaker, Jacinth Browne-Howard, a 27-year-old PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill

Browne-Howard who graduated from the GHS 11 years ago, told the graduands that they must be unapologetic about their dreams

“By now many of you know exactly what you want to do. And I don’t mean deviant or illegal activity. If you want to be a lawyer or a doctor or professor or psychologist or teacher or politician or accountant, you will have long nights of study, but follow through,” encouraged Browne-Howard

She told the girls that resoluteness is necessary for success

“Some of you want to own a store, become an artist or do cosmetology. Some of you hope to excel in male dominated STEM careers like engineering, building web apps or others like architecture

“Some of you hope to be doctors and lawyers. Do not let anyone belittle your dreams. Your desires are special to you. God designed your heart to hold them,” she said

Browne-Howard said she was a science student while at GHS but loved literary arts and decided to follow her passions and has never had a regret

“A friend of mine reminded me lately of Maya Angelou’s words ‘success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it’, do not be afraid to pursue passions. Always remember that money does not guarantee fulfilment in life,” Browne-Howard told students

She said that students who know exactly what they want to do must find practical ways to make it happen

“Sometimes we come across people who will laugh at our aspirations and tell you it can’t be done. Don’t allow criticism to create a stumbling block to you on your journey to becoming

“Occasionally the voices are people close to us. Surround yourself with people who will always be honest with you but will support you and push you to constantly improve your craft,” said Browne-Howard

She added, “never be afraid to be the first. Be the one to do it. Be the one to start a new make-up line, be the first holder of a doctorate in your family, be the one to attend Oxford, be the one to find a cure, be the one to earn a scholarship, be the one to create a charity

“Don’t let expectations limit your potential. The world is your oyster. Sometimes you have to take risk to see your aspirations come to fruition.”

She also encouraged students to do volunteer work to gain experience and to not despise small tasks or challenging activities while refusing to be distracted by the quick fixes

The perfect Instagram posts only scratch the surface of life,” she said while noting that one must refuse to compare oneself to others

“In a system where we are ranked by digits and performances, a one size fit all system, where it matters who is prettier, where we get rejected or accepted for scholarships and jobs leaving feelings of uncertainty, it’s important for us to refuse to compare ourselves

“Your aspiration should not be to become as good as the next person, you must always seek to be better than your past self. You must always don originality…succeed on your own terms,” said Browne-Howard