For the nine students of the All Saints Cathedral School’s Class of 2019, excitement for the future was in the air during the graduation ceremony held at the cathedral on St. Thomas on Friday. A medley of songs sung by the graduates at the end of the ceremony, a tradition at All Saints, culminated in a spirited rendition of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” a fitting sentiment as they embark on their next step in life.

Best friends since the first grade, both valedictorian Jalia Wheatley and salutatorian Diantha Matthews have chosen to go into the medical field. Wheatley will study biology and explore different disciplines in medicine at American University in Washington, “because I like to help people and I have a caring personality.”

Matthews will be attending Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., studying to become a doctor of physical therapy, with a minor in graphic design. She hopes to someday open her own physical therapy facility. Her choice came from personal experience. “I was once a patient, when I dislocated a knee, and during sessions, I realized I could turn this into a career,” Matthews said.

Both students, as well as the class vice president Josuhar Espinola, credited the one-on-one time with teachers at this small Episcopal college preparatory school for their success thus far, and are confident it will help them as they enter college.

“They taught us economics, banking accounts, managing money and statistics, real life scenarios, as well as regular classwork,” explained Matthews.

“One-on-one interaction with teachers made me prepared, mostly,” agreed Espinola. “It was an advantage to be in a small school. I feel nervous and excited.”

Espinola will attend Ithaca College to study computer science and would like to focus on software engineering. He will enter the ROTC program and plans be commissioned as an officer in the Army.

In her speech, Wheatley, class president and president of the school’s National Honor Society, said her experiences at All Saints have made her a strong, structured young woman who believes in the four pillars of the National Honor Society: scholarship, leadership, character and service.

“If there’s one thing that All Saints School has taught me, it’s to never let anyone tell you that you can’t,” she said.

Commencement speaker Thomas Krise, a graduate of the Class of 1979, noted in his speech the similarities of his class with the Class of 2019. Krise served more than twenty years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a flight commander in the Strategic Air Command, on the faculty of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, as a senior military fellow of the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Washington, as vice director of the National Defense University Press and as founder and first director of the Air Force Humanities Institute. He was elected the 11th President of the University of Guam in 2018.

“We’ve all bonded, we’re all rooted to this place,” he said. “We all belong to these Virgin Islands and to this school, and our new graduates are all headed off to new adventures well prepared, well supported and well loved … With your All Saints education and IrMaria resilience, you are ready for anything.”

As she straightened caps and adjusted gowns before the ceremony, proud home room advisor Shalonda Johnson said, “I am so glad we’ve reached this night. I wish them well on their next journey in life, and may God be with them every step of the way.”