Graduations are exciting. Caps and gowns and congratulations. People like to say it is new beginnings, and new adventures.

Most of us remember our graduations. We certainly felt a sense of accomplishment, pride and relief, mixed with a little fear. What was coming next was unknown. The world was our oyster, and we were ready to go.

We listened to advice and words of wisdom and promptly dismissed a lot of what we heard. The knowledge of how many people it took to get us to this day became clear as graduation day got closer. We realized it was really a group effort of family, teachers, and friends. However, we were definitely now in charge of our lives and our futures. We kind of knew it all.

Forty years since my graduation, I have found out that I didn’t know a thing.

I needed to learn about real life, where you had to do for yourself, pay your own bills and make your own decisions. I had to closely watch those that I admired and find out why I looked up to them, and ask for advice. Although I had graduated, I needed to become a student again when entering the workforce, seeking out mentors and watching how things were done. I had to take stock of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to accomplish, and I had to move that goalpost every day, making tons of mistakes along the way.

Graduation day is easy. It’s the days after that will test. But the knowledge and skills that are now instilled in Virgin Islands graduates is a gift to our entire community. With this talent they are ready for real life, with our help. We are looking forward to this benefit, of young people who want to change the world.

Margaret Mead summed it up well: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

— Maria Ferreras is a longtime St. Thomas resident and community volunteer. She can be reached at