BTVI Andros graduates first class

Sharona Woodside-Barr, an office assistant, successfully juggled school and family life to earn her degree in five years

It took Sharona Woodside-Barr five years to complete her Associate of Applied Science in Office Administration, but when she recently crossed the stage at graduation from the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) in her hometown of Andros, she considered it one of her biggest life events.

“To walk across that stage at age 42 was a great accomplishment. I completed this journey to show my kids that age is just a number and not to let anything or anyone deter you from your dreams. Whew, child, graduation day was one of the biggest events of my life,” said Woodside-Barr.

“I was super excited about graduation. I got to show my home people that, ‘You could do this, too, and have your family at your side during your biggest moments,’” she said.

Woodside-Barr was one of 16 BTVI students to participate in the institution’s first graduation ceremony in North Andros. Currently employed at the Bahamas Agriculture & Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) as an office assistant, she successfully juggled school and family life, but not without challenges.

“During my time studying, my biggest challenge was balancing work, home and being an entrepreneur, coupled with internet and power outages. It wasn’t easy, but I did it,” said Woodside-Barr.

“It took five years because at the beginning, we were face to face and didn’t have the numbers for the classes, so we had to take what was being offered at the time, which ranged from three to six credits. When the pandemic started and everything went virtual, it was during that time that I was able to use BTVI for what they offered, taking a full nine to 12 credits per semester,” said the recent graduate.

BTVI began offering programs in Andros in 2017. The current offerings are carpentry, electrical installation, office assistant and office administration. Playing critical roles in the launch of the Andros programs were BTVI’s former Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, Leroy Sumner, and former Member of Parliament for North Andros, Carlton Bowleg.

Coordinator of BTVI Andros, Marsha McDonald, said it was an achievement to have the first BTVI North Andros graduation. It was held at the New Community Baptist Church under the theme, “Positioned for the Now. Prepared for the Future.”

“Right here in our lovely hometown, it was history in the making. The anticipation and excitement of the community, along with family, friends and well wishers boasting of the successful achievements of the candidates, made it even more grand,” said McDonald, who has headed the program since 2018.

She said BTVI’s presence in Andros is an opportunity of a lifetime for the island residents.

“Most of the students so far are already employed in government offices and even running businesses of their own on the island. This adds a great aspect to the working force knowing persons are improving their level of education.

“I see students eager to learn and better themselves with a BTVI education while encouraging others to obtain an education as well. I also see the moment when one has completed one level of certification and desires to jump right to the next level. Andros has truly benefited greatly from this great institute, BTVI,” said McDonald.

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