I have taught a handful of exceptional classes over the years, but none to match the class that I have had this past year as I ended my classroom teaching career. They were largest, at 41 students, and on balance not necessarily the brightest, though there were a number of exceptionally bright students in the mix. But they were the most engaged class I have ever taught: with their own academic and societal development, in comfort and support of one another, and with the issues confronting the world that they will shortly inherit. 

Take for example the expansion of the port facilities here in Cayman that seemed like a fait accompli just two years ago. It was this class of students that led the charge to demand a country-wide referendum on the issue and then pushed for a significant delay in that referendum to allow for a proper airing of the environmental impact report on the damage to the fragile coral ecosystem that would have been destroyed by a port expansion Through their social media campaign, their networking with students in other schools, and their street marches and demonstrations, they were able to delay and eventually shelve that expansion that would have lumbered this country with immeasurable debt just when the cruise industry was about to collapse. 

Then there were the beach cleanups that they have conducted now for several years. Recently they extended these regular events to neighbouring Little Cayman where they removed and bagged an impressive one and a half tons of plastic waste in a weekend of effort. Most kids their age would have been out partying all weekend, instead of working towards a cleaner future for these beautiful islands.

A  number of the students from this graduating class were fundamental in starting a youth activist group called Protect Our Future. They host a Facebook page as well if you are interested in keeping up with their ongoing activities. Over the past several years they have not only put a stop to the unnecessary and destructive port expansion through their protests, protested the destruction of the mangrove stands so important as breeding grounds in the Caribbean, taking on this island’s largest developer in the process, fought for a change in the country’s road safety regulations, protested the country’s appalling record of managing the nation’s waste, sought to protect the coral reefs so fundamental to Cayman’s appeal as a tourist destination, and raised awareness of the overuse of plastics throughout the Caribbean through their indefatigable efforts at cleanups

Through it all they remained committed to their academic progress. Eleven students in this cohort graduated with a GPA above 4.0. Seven of those kept that average throughout the past four years in high school. They were invariably on time, invariably engaged with the lesson material, invariably pleasant and polite, invariably encouraging to one another. They have been an absolute joy to teach these past four years, and I will miss them terribly. Fortunately for me, through the miracle of social media, I will be able to follow their progress for years to come.