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Bermuda’s schools, we salute you

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Bigger and better: this year’s National School Salute was illuminated by the children who represent this island’s future (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

And so we have come to the end of another Bermuda National School Salute. Bigger and better was the ambition for the second edition and, by all accounts, it has been mission accomplished.

But we still have some ways to go for the schoolchildren who represent this country’s future to realise the vision that is a rallying call for the 2016 salute: “a Better Bermuda”.

The evidence of this past weekend alone is enough to inform that the inhabitants of this parish are steadfast in making a pig’s ear of one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world.

Two deaths — one from repetitive but eminently avoidable senselessness on our roads, the other the work of a growing evil that lurks among us — and a missing person whose disappearance is being treated with suspicion by law enforcement have made the past two days a sobering experience for some.

We say for some because many of us are only too willing to take barely a moment of pause when a teenager loses their life on our roads, and then go about our routines as though nothing happened — leaving a family to grieve and a community to mourn. In going about our lives, with no lessons learnt, the senselessness wastes little time in getting back on to the carousel until the Grim Reaper comes calling — as he will inevitably do.

We say for some because when someone is shot and killed, the presumption is that it is gang-related or drug-related — and then we look the other way, to more pristine lives. While the presumption very well may be spot on, for the most part, the perception is that there is little empathy with those who have been complicit in allowing their lives and those of their loved ones to descend into a cesspit of misdeed.

And lest we forget, the weekend was prefaced by an armed robbery at the former Pink Beach hotel property.

The term “Two Bermudas”, usually coined for political expediency, can be added to by several more — none of which are pretty; nor are they saleable to the wider world.

But we digress; the purpose of this missive is to honour the schools and the many progressive young people who helped to make the second Bermuda National School Salute a resounding success.

However, to do so without acknowledging the negativity wreaked upon us by the events of the past 72 hours would be effectively to sweep them under the carpet or to look the other way. That is not the example we want to set for our youth, many of whom need the guidance of “adults” more than ever.

So if indeed a tangent it is, this is a tangent worth going off on.

Congratulations to the faculty, staff and students of Sandys Secondary Middle School (May 9), Clearwater Middle School (May 9), Dellwood Middle School (May 10), Whitney Institute Middle School (May 10), TN Tatem Middle School (May 10), Somersfield Academy (May 11), CedarBridge Academy (May 12), Bermuda Institute (May 13), the Berkeley Institute (May 16), Mount Saint Agnes Academy (May 17), Warwick Academy (May 18), Saltus Grammar School (May 19) and Bermuda High School (May 20).

The production that adorned the newspaper for much of the past fortnight was the culmination of several months of hard work, dedication and perseverance on behalf of the schools to get their messages out to the Bermuda public.

Beyond that, each made physical appearances at popular morning greeting points in and around Hamilton. They waved, they sang, they cheered, they beat their drums. All with smiles on their faces and with a sense of immense pride oozing from their souls.

It is to be hoped that they got more than a little love back in return from passers-by.

“And now for a word from our sponsor.”

Media organisations, by their very nature, are loath to toot their own horns — at least ad nauseam. Our job as the qualified observer is to observe and report objectively, which more often than not means looking through the viewfinder and retelling the feats of the subject — not standing on the other side.

On this occasion, however, it is worth commending all those within The Royal Gazette who contributed in making the National School Salute bigger and better — senior management, graphic and web designers, printers, proofreaders, sub-editors, photographers and, in particular, our very own MVP, Sarah Fellows, the glue that brought the schools and the newspaper together.

There cannot be anyone better placed to serve as our schools and youth correspondent, seeing how passionately she goes about her craft, not to mention her commitment and dedication to young people. Bottle those traits, sprinkle the contents over the education ministry, and who knows how soon Bermuda might reverse the trend of falling standards.

Sarah has not been on island to bask in the glow of her achievements with this year’s salute — she has moved on to a challenge of a different sort, which is to oversee the care of her ailing mother in Britain. We wish her and her family well.

In Sarah’s absence, and as a show of gratitude for her work on the salute and that of others at the paper, a few of the schools made impromptu visits to 2 Par-la-Ville Road, top-and-tailed by Dellwood on the first day and BHS on the last.

Each in their own way epitomised the spirit that this newspaper has bought into — Dellwood with their superbly choreographed performance for Gazette staff in the reception area, and BHS with their dogged determination to regale the morning commuters, despite comfortably the worst day for weather during the salute, by huddling together under cover on the steps and hollering for all they were worth.

They, and all the other schools in this campaign, are certainly worth it.

Saltus Grammar School students enjoy the National School Salute (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Bermuda High School students brave the rain to celebrate the final day of the National School Salute on the steps of The Royal Gazette offices (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Somersfield Academy students, accompanied by The Royal Gazette’s Caroline Desmarais, offer a warm greeting to commuters during the National School Salute
Mount Saint Agnes during the National School Salute (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
TN Tatem students give it their best roar at Crow Lane roundabout
Berkeley Institute students/cheerleaders get into the spirit
Bermuda Institute students look the part
Warwick Academy students line the road (Photograph by Akil Simmons)