Milestone: High school graduation marks the start of the next chapter of your life. *Creative commons photo by werwin15
Milestone: High school graduation marks the start of the next chapter of your life. *Creative commons photo by werwin15
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FRIDAY, JULY 13: Congratulations to the Class of 2012!

High school graduates across the island are about to embark on the next stage of their lives, whether it’s heading off to college or into the world of work.

For many students, graduation is the culmination of years of hard work, often through personal challenges.

Three graduates from Mount Saint Agnes (MSA) Academy who overcame adversity here tell their stories here and what they have learned from their schooldays.

Megan Teixeira

Megan Teixeira, 18, had a rocky road towards completing her high school diploma.

She says she lost interest in school at Grade Nine and was “rude, and didn’t care”.

Megan, of Smith’s, said: “I didn’t want to hear what anyone else had to say. I didn’t care about school or my grades.”

However, after principal Susan Moench started mentoring her, things turned around.

“She kept me in her office to study for the fourth quarter, for the rest of the year,” said Megan.

“I was on the edge of not making it to Grade 10, but Miss Moench kept a close eye on me and I passed.

“I got over my stubbornness. During Grade 10 I then smartened up. I went on to do very well in Grade 11 and ended up getting several awards, including the school Incentive Award.”

She also encouraged a couple of her classmates who were losing motivation to stick with school.

“One wanted to drop out and I told him, ‘No, that’s not a good thing to do, you will regret it’.”

Megan has also coped with looking after her mom, Mariana, who has multiple sclerosis.

“She was diagnosed five years ago and in the past couple of years her condition has got worse. It’s a condition which doesn’t get better, so it has been hard,” she said.

“But she just takes one day at a time, and you just do what you’ve got to do. I love my mom.

“I went to school, did my homework, and we had a daily routine, so me and my dad knew what to do each day of the week, such as cooking, cleaning, helping her to her room and to find clothes, and so on.”

Megan is now working at Salon Pink as a salon assistant and will study hairdressing at Bermuda College this Fall.

Megan said Pinky at Salon Pink has also been an “inspiration” and a mentor.

“She’s been helping me to move forward and has motivated me a lot. I’ve already learned how to cut in certain ways and to colour.”

She also enjoyed time at Bang Bang hair salon. “I loved it,” she said.

Reflecting on her experiences at school, Megan said: “I learned to always take one day at a time and to appreciate the little things.

“No matter what obstacles get in your way you can always achieve what you want, so never stop trying and dreaming, because it will happen.

“I’m very proud to graduate. Because of the hard times I went through, I feel I have come full circle. And my mom is also very proud of me.”

Shane Antonition

Shane Antonition, 18, is on his way to university after being bullied in elementary and middle school.

Shane, of Smith’s, is to study environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and is already embarking on looking for solutions to energy and climate issues.

“Going through school I did have to deal with bullying,” he said.

“When I was in elementary school it was more physical, such as punching and kicking, but as I progressed through middle school, it was more verbal, such as insults and putting me down.

“This was by different people. The reasons aren’t very clear to me.

“For the most part I tried not to let it get to me, but there were times when I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

However, he said the staff at MSA dealt with the problem and, when he was in Grade Nine, the situation improved with the introduction of the anti-bullying programme, ‘Dare to Care’.

“Almost immediately the atmosphere at school changed,” he said.

“The programme looks at addressing the origins of bullying at school and about learning each other’s stories and the differences between us.

“It definitely lessened the bullying, but the real effect it had was for us all to get a better understanding of each other.

“We realized that some people may act a certain way because of things happening in their lives.

“This created a closer bond between my classmates.”

Shane stayed committed to his studies and ended each school year with honours — grade averages above 90 per cent.

“I’ve always been a fairly strong student,” he said.

“The one thing I made sure of was to not let the bullying affect my academic studies. They became my safe haven in a way — I was determined to carry on.

“Learning is something I love and I didn’t want bullying to get in the way of that.

“I also had a group of friends I could count on for support, and the staff also helped, so I’m very grateful for all of them being there.”

He said: “I’m very proud to graduate. I’m also proud to have been part of the Elizabeth Seaton chapter of the National Honours Society.

“To be part of that you have to demonstrate the qualities of leadership, service, character and scholarship.”

Shane was the only boy to be in the school chapter, and dedicated time to fundraising and helping charities in the community.

This summer he has been invited to assist scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as an intern, helping to study plastic found in the Sargasso Sea.

Shane said: “My experience at school has definitely taught me to stay true to myself and to always look to new horizons.”

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas, 18, is to pursue a career in engineering after graduating from Mount Saint Agnes Academy.

He said his school experience was “pretty good” and that mathematics and science subjects were his strong points.

He also played basketball on the school team.

Dave, of Devonshire, said: “A lot of the classes were pretty difficult, but on the whole I didn’t have too many struggles.”

Brought up by a single parent, he said his mom Betty and sister Nikki are “very proud” of him graduating.

“It feels really good to graduate,” he said.

“I also just turned 18 so it feels like it’s a big stage of my life.

“It’s time to move on to the next stage now.

“My experiences at school taught me that you should work hard and that you’ve got to stay on top of your work as best you can.

“But you should also have fun and surround yourself with good friends, not people who are going to bring you down. You need people you can be yourself around.”

Dave has been working as a floor merchandiser at Lindo’s in Devonshire for the past two years and is excited about starting university.

“I’m interested in the mechanical engineering field but am looking forward to getting a taste for each field of engineering,” he said.