UVI 2016 Graduates Excel Despite Turbulent Circumstances

Originally published on uvitodayblogspot.com

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Student Commencement Speaker on St Thomas Campus: Patrice Renee Harris

Patrice Harris will be the student speaker at this year’s commencement ceremony on the St. Thomas Campus, but she is not nervous. As a communications major whose dream job is to be a television news anchor, public speaking comes almost as naturally to her as walking, and she does it with the confidence of an elite athlete who knows she’s at the top of her game.

Originally from St. Kitts, Harris was one of the first students from St. Kitts and Nevis to receive a scholarship from UVI. She was excited to explore the world beyond the island of her birth, but the transition proved difficult. Intense homesickness brought on a bout of digestive complications that landed her in the hospital and took her out of commission for more than a month. Determined not to fall behind, she completed that semester with a 3.7 grade point average and went on to attend the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Institute. That, too, was difficult; Harris grappled with being a small fish in a big pond for the first time in her life. But instead of feeling defeated, she threw herself into the work at hand and was subsequently chosen to be a student ambassador.

UVI made it possible for Harris to attend the Washington Center during the summer where she had an internship as a congressional news correspondent. There she was in her element, especially while covering the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. But at the height of what she described as her “grand moment” she received word that her father had had a stroke. “I really loved my dad,” she said. “I wanted to go home, but he encouraged me to continue. I finished the program and got an A in the class.”

Toward the end of her final semester at UVI, while still in the throes of coursework and making tough decisions about her future, Harris received the call she had long dreaded: Her father had passed away. “So this has become a very bittersweet moment for me, and I’m not always sure how to handle it,” she said. “I still have all this work to do. It’s very difficult.”

Nevertheless, Harris continues to look forward to speaking at this year’s commencement, and feels proud of being named the 2016 Best Student Employee of the Year for her work at UVI’s Radio Station, and Best Communications Student. She was offered a job at the Hershey Corporation in Sales and Marketing, but has instead decided to pursue a career in communications and journalism. She is currently working with TMCF representatives toward securing an internship in her chosen field.

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