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STTJ Opening of School Celebration Service: "We Are Here Because of the Children"

Students attending Charlotte Amalie High School, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and Addelita Cancryn Jr. High School greet Governor Mapp, Lt. Governor Potter and Education Commissioner Sharon Ann McCollum after performing at the Annual Back to School Celebration Service on September 18 at the St. Thomas Assembly of God Church in Est. Contant.


"We are here because of the children."

Those moving words spoken by Education Commissioner Sharon Ann McCollum, Ph.D., set the tone for what would be a jubilant gathering at the Annual Opening of School Celebration Service, held Sunday, September 18 at the St. Thomas Assembly of God Church in Estate Contant. Employees and leadership team members from the Department of Education, the Hon. Governor Kenneth E. Mapp, Lt. Governor Osbert Potter and public officials packed the church to usher in the 2016-17 School Year on a right(eous) note.

It was a celebration, indeed! The service began with several up tempo congregational songs being led by a praise team. Praise dancers also filled the front aisle with interpretive dance movements while waving flags. A highlight of the service came with musical performances from students attending several of the district's public schools. L.J. Bratwaithe, a student at the Charlotte Amalie High School, gave a rhythmic rendition of "God is so Good" on the steel pan. Abrianna Gregoire, an 8th grader at Addelita Cancryn Jr. High School, rendered a solo vocal performance of Whitney Houston's, "Greatest Love of All." Lastly, Dianna Liburd, a student at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, performed a medley of songs on the trumpet; she was accompanied by L.J. on the steel pan. Each student received hearty praise from the audience for their accomplishments. The Ivanna Eudora Kean High School football team and its coaches also attended the service as part of the team's annual visit--a tradition that began when Commissioner McCollum served as principal of the Red Hook high school.

Reverend Dr. George Phillips, senior pastor, announced the title of his sermon as, "The Call to Serve." In it, he implored audience members to consider their profession as something sacred and that serves a higher purpose. "Our success does not rest in the accolades of people," he began. "The God that called us is the God that will help us." In speaking about humility and understanding that it requires teamwork to accomplish many tasks, he said, "God didn't necessarily call a genius and a know-it-all. We are a work in progress. Give God a chance to take you where He wants you to be."

Similar to the Opening of School Service in St. Croix held on September 11, the St. Thomas-St. John service was also filled with prayers for a successful school year for educators and students. 

During his remarks, Governor Mapp expressed his gratitude to and support of the Department of Education, and described Pastor Phillips's sermon as having "filled" him up. Lt. Governor Potter and Senator Myron Jackson also expressed their pleasure in attending the service. 

At the end of the service, Commissioner McCollum presented Pastor Phillips and Governor Mapp with plaques in recognition of their support of public education.



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