Sade Lockhart-Bain, 21, made history for Ragged Island when she graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, last week with a Bachelor of Arts in nutrition.
Nobody else has managed to go directly from Ragged Island All-Age School to a university abroad and complete a degree.
Having been raised on an island with only one school with only two teachers, hers was no small feat.
“I cannot express how honored I am to be the first, but simultaneously I hope that I am not the last,” she said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
She added, “I have to thank my teachers Robert and Ophelia Boodram for all their hard work, and the lashes they gave me for 12 years while I was enrolled in Ragged Island All-Age.
“They continuously motivated and pushed me to learn when l felt I could not do it.
“Although they were not able to teach me all the subjects I sat for BGCSE, they motivated me to teach myself and they reassured me that I could do it.
“At Saint Benedict’s, if I had not learned to use my resources, challenge myself and had the support of my family and friends, I would not have been able to complete my degree.”
Lockhart-Bain said she had focused primarily on applying to universities in Canada, as the lack of opportunity to sit the SAT or ACT exams on Ragged Island limited the number of colleges she applied to in the U.S. However, College of Saint Benedict was an exception.
She said she applied with the encouragement of her parents, Myron and Charlene Lockhart-Bain.
“I later found out I was accepted into the college,” she said.
“I got my acceptance letter electronically and because Ragged Island did not have a fully operating post office at the time, I filled in my grandmother’s post office box in Nassau on the application.
“About a week after receiving my electronic acceptance, my grandmother called me with excitement saying that she got an acceptance letter for me from her Alma mater. That was when I realized Saint Benedict’s was the college my grandmother, older sister, many aunts and cousins attended and spoke so greatly about.”
Lockhart-Bain said she struggled with homesickness and managing her time, and often felt like giving up.
She said being the only Bahamian at the college who was from a Family Island sometimes left her feeling alienated, and that she had an especially difficult time when she was unable to be with her family after Ragged Island was devastated by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
“Every year at Saint Ben’s I’ve had a very low point and I felt like giving up,” she said.
“I would say that completing my undergraduate degree was very difficult.
“From being homesick to [being] the only Bahamian from a Family Island, to having troubles managing my time efficiently with employment, extracurricular activities and the worst obstacle for me was not being able to be with my family in the time of mourning.
“Although the Bahamian community at College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University was strong and close, sometimes I felt really out of bounds.
“A lot of times I felt that there was no one like me I could relate to.
“However, there were many resources on campus that welcomed me and made me feel at home.”
Now that she has graduated, Lockhart-Bain said she wants to move back to The Bahamas, and eventually to Ragged Island where she can contribute to the community.
“I definitely plan to move back to The Bahamas and give back,” she said.
“Especially to my sweet, little island that many, including those in high power, have forgotten about.”
She added, “I want to move back to Ragged Island someday.
“Every year during breaks, I always find a way to Ragged Island because that’s where my heart is.
“Ragged Island will forever be my home, and nothing can change that.”
Lockhart-Bain said she believes her accomplishment speaks volumes about how far residents of the island can go, but she expressed concern over their lack of resources since Hurricane Irma.
Twenty months after the disaster, there is still no government school, post office, administrator’s office, police station or clinic on the island.
“I think it says that we can go on to do anything with the right groundwork, and that is with good teachers and a place for those teachers to teach in,” she said.
“Since Hurricane Irma, the school has yet to be repaired. We can have more accomplishments like this if we have an educational system on the island to begin with.”
She added, “It’s really saddening. Every time I visit the island, I go over to the school and reminisce on how it was three years ago.
“I hope something can be done soon to restore some of the things that matter the most on the island, which are government-owned buildings, such as the clinic, police station, administrative building and, of course, the school.”