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Alumni News! 5.3.16


Dear Alumni:

It is hard to believe that we are just one month from graduation when the Class of 2016 will be joining your ranks! Our talented seniors are finalizing college decisions for next year and are fortunate to be choosing among many great institutions, from Middlebury College, Howard University, and the Air Force Academy, to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, University of Toronto, and Texas Tech. We are enormously proud of the hard work of students, parents, and faculty for these results. If any of you will be on Island and would like to attend our June 4 ceremony at Island Center, please contact Ms. Nancy Thatcher at nthatcher@ghcds.org.

Second, one of our priorities this year was to begin ramping up our outreach to alumni. This included two off-island alumni gatherings – one in Washington, D.C. in October and one in San Francisco in February. We also have emailed six alumni newsletters this year in which we have profiled graduates forging interesting paths and interviewed former faculty members to hear their memories and get an update on where they are now. We hope you enjoy the fascinating profiles below!

Lastly, for us to provide a world-class education and become the best private school in the Caribbean, we need the support of our 2,000+ graduates who are scattered around the globe. One simple, but very meaningful, act of support is to make a contribution, whether $10 or $10,000, to our Annual Fund, which provides critical support across programs. One of our graduates and trustees, Ms. Nesha Christian-Hendrickson, provides a nice testimonial below about the Annual Fund (click here to read other testimonials).  I hope you will join her in supporting your alma mater.

Please click here to make a gift online now.

Our goal is to get 100 gifts from alumni before June 30 – this would represent a huge step forward for the overall perception of our School. Your gift matters!

In the meantime, we hope you are well and look forward to staying connected.

Kind regards,


Mr. Kari Loya

Head of School                                                                                                                                                                                     Good Hope Country Day School

Michelle Dizon Testimonial header

My first memory at Country Day School was when I arrived for testing a year after Hugo. My previous school, Montessori House of Children, had been destroyed in the storm. I felt like I had moved to the big leagues because it was a much stricter environment.  One of my greatest memories is winning Orange and White Day; we worked so hard trying to win tug of war! We had so much school pride! The other outstanding memory I have is my graduation where my mother was selected as the guest speaker. Not many people have that privilege.

Country Day School fostered academic excellence and an appreciation for diversity, which helped prepare me for Penn State University.  My strong start at CDS greatly contributed to the lawyer I am today.  What I love about the School is that we are flexible to new ideas while staying true to our history of academic excellence and diversity.
I chose to serve on the Board of Trustees because I wanted to give back to my School and community in a concrete way. Both my parents served in different capacities and I always knew I wanted to contribute in a significant way.

I donate to the annual fund because it is the most efficient way that an alum can help the School continue to provide the same high-quality education for others that I was fortunate to receive.


Chip Adams photo

A Portrait of Charles “Chip” Adams: (Interviewed by Kiomie (Johansen)Pedrini

Mr. Adams arrives before dawn in his brown renegade jeep, McDonald’s coffee in one hand, briefcase in the other.  With whistle in hand he is everywhere, on the slab, in the classrooms, middle school fun night, teaching swimming to the little ones in the pool, bus duty and detention.   Sporting a blue shirt, tan pants, and brown sandals, he carefully sets up the chairs for every assembly, play, and concert.  When it rains you can count on Mr. Adams in his yellow slicker, pants rolled up and squeegee in hand, making sure the slab is ready for the next basketball game. “Report to Mr. Adams’ Office!”  In his office, classical music plays as he shuts the air conditioner down so it is quiet, very quiet.  He concentrates on what you say, never yells or makes you feel like a baby, but his stern look of disappointment makes you understand.  Sometimes he says, “You’re on my radar.”

What led you to the school in the first place?

For 32 years (1973- 2005), I had the students of St. Croix Country Day School on my radar.  I came from the Winnetka School District, which had the philosophy of honoring the whole child, fostering creativity, inspiring lifelong learning, and developing civic responsibility.  I was invited to come to St. Croix and join the CDS team by Howard Fager (Mr. Country Day), as the 5th and 6th grade core teacher and Head of Middle School.  Working alongside Marge Boulanger, I lead my faculty and staff to raise the standards of CDS on our journey to becoming the best college preparatory school in the Caribbean.

What are you most proud of from your time at the school?

I am extremely proud of many of my accomplishments, but I consider the Mini–Gusto program my masterpiece.  The Mini-Gusto program has gone through much iteration, but it truly is a unique program to CDS.  Over the years, I enjoyed watching students expand their horizons with experiences that led to learning, self-discovery, a new hobby, or a new career choice.  I remember driving the van to and from various activities and loved listening to the excitement as the students recanted the day’s adventures.

What are your fondest memories of the school?

My tenure at CDS was punctuated by so many good memories.  These included portraying Christopher Columbus to the third grade geography and history class, riding my bicycle on Wheels Day, and the entire faculty dressing in blue shirts and khaki pants to celebrate my birthday.  But no experience can surpass dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Hugo.

What were your biggest challenges?

Recovering from the devastation after hurricane Hugo while half of the administration wanted to split the assets and close the school and the other half of the administration, led by Marge Boulanger, wanted to take on the Herculean task of re-opening the school.  Two weeks later, the high school was open for business in the gym.  That year was the most memorable for faculty, staff, and students, because the bonds that were forged by the experience were unbreakable.

What are you doing nowadays?

I am retired now and have been away from the school for ten years, but I love running into alumni and hearing all the details of their continued life journey.


Nicole Canegata Headshot

Nicole Yvette Canegata, CDS ’98,  is a successful commercial, editorial, and fine art photographer who specializes in architectural, food, portraiture, and wedding photography. A 5th generation Crucian with a distinguished family history on the Island, Nicole recently spoke with us about her experience at CDS and beyond.

“My time at CDS was rewarding, challenging, and prepared me perfectly for my undergraduate studies and evolving career path,” she recalled. “I had amazing instructors that cared about my academic future and well-being. I loved the small class sizes for the intimate learning experience and one-on-one attention from instructors. I learned to write well and communicate effectively, thanks to my English instructors, particularly Mr. Guy Roth, which has helped me the most in life. I was especially challenged by the sciences and math curriculum (both are still not my strong suit), but realized that I excelled in the humanities and arts, which ultimately paved the way for my career path. I am grateful for the outstanding education and real-world preparation that CDS gave me.”

After graduation, Nicole attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, with a concentration in History, and minor in Classical Civilizations. In 2002, she returned to St. Croix and landed a job with Valance Company, Inc. as a Research Editor. In 2012, Nicole had her first solo exhibit, “The Traveling Lense,” and this inspired her to pursue photography as a full-time career. She then attended the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Professional Photography.

In 2014, Nicole returned to St. Croix, where she now runs her own commercial & wedding photography business.  She is a commercial, editorial and fine art photographer, fascinated with people, places, architecture, food, nature, fine art and documentary photography. Her fine art prints have been featured in several exhibitions in the U.S. Virgin Islands and California. A traveler at heart, Nicole has visited 6 continents, 49 countries, and 186 cities across the globe, and she is available for travel worldwide. She is an avid reader, and when not working on photography or art projects, she finds peace and tranquility on her yoga mat, or in nature, especially at the beach. Check out her website at www.nicolecanegata.com to see some of the special moments Nicole has captured.


Suga Savage Smith Photo

Suga Savage Smith, GHS ’91: “My upbringing in St. Croix was a once in a lifetime, invaluable experience,” Suga Savage Smith, GHS ’91, recently shared from just outside Philadelphia.

After graduation, Suga  attended Tufts University to major in Mathematics,  then spent several years living and working in New York City and Bermuda.  She started her career in banking in a Chase Manhattan training program and eventually worked for Software giants Oracle, Microsoft, and now Dell.  She is currently a Software Global Account Lead in the Large Enterprise group.  She and her husband, Jared, are raising their two kids, Cameron and Sophie, who attend Gladwyne Montessori School. The whole family has become a vital part of that school community, where Suga serves on the board of Trustees.

“ I love it so much partly because it reminds me of GHS,” she says. “GHS prepared me extremely well academically and socially…I recall feeling pretty shy and awkward but I always seemed to find kind, fun, great kids at the school to feel connected to.  It was a small but nurturing community with such amazingly talented people who I learned so much from. One of my favorite teachers was Cindy Male, she was tough but fair, and I loved her passion for the arts.”

This appreciation for the arts was shared by her father, James Savage, who donated the funds to build the James C. Savage Center for the Performing Arts on the Good Hope School Campus. This remains one of the leading venues for live performances on St. Croix.  Suga’s love for St. Croix is unwavering and as the mother of two small children, she wants them to feel connected to the Island as well.  Like many Crucians who are far from home, Suga says she misses Crucian food and can’t find anything close to it in the States.  She doesn’t get home as much as she would like, but she hopes to make the trip this year around the holidays. We look forward to welcoming her back!


Ralph Motta PhotoRalph Motta, CDS ’09: Self-taught and fearless, CDS 2009 graduate and chef, Ralph Motta has been inspired by the cultures and traditions of St. Croix. Its rich history, blended with an ever-growing influx of diverse cultures, is responsible for the evolution of what he refers to as modern-day Crucian cuisine.

At CDS, he focused on art, taking the maximum number of art classes allowed each year. His favorite teacher was Monica Marin, “who always integrated fun into our structured classes. As a result, the time spent in the art room fostered an exciting mentor type relationship that has lasted to this day.”  After graduation, Ralph attended Pratt Institute to pursue a degree in Fine Arts and simultaneously discovered a new passion.  His training as a fine artist compels him to experiment with an array of culinary techniques both traditional and contemporary. While paired with a passion to produce art, Chef Motta designs every dish by juxtaposing the modern aesthetic of contemporary abstraction with that of his traditional flavors. His style can be described as Caribbean, French and American fusion. Surrounded by living encyclopedias of cultural recipes and techniques growing up in St. Croix, Chef Motta recalled,  “It was impossible to be blind to the preparation of local cuisine.”  He had his pick from family heirlooms, such as his grandmother Claire Motta’s mortar and pestle, which she used to produce “pound seasoning” a staple ingredient in every savory Crucian dish, to his mother’s silver mixing bowls handed down to her by Grandma Ena. The history of these pieces have inspired Chef Motta to preserve the culture and evolve the family’s legacy.

Chef Motta is currently the Executive Chef at Motta Cuisine, located in Spanish Harlem. This boutique catering company was established in the Spring of 2014 with the help of fellow Crucians. Recently recognized by Black Enterprise “for disrupting the status quo and creating his own opportunities in the culinary world,” Chef Motta was named a BE Modern Man of 2015. Last month, Ralph was a visiting chef for the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience, where he prepared an array of delights for guests at the Sunset BBQ event in Frederiksted.  We are excited to see what Ralph is cooking up next in the kitchen and in the art world!


Ray Hays PhotoRay Hays, GHS ’86: is a seasoned international executive with a 25‐year track record growing and advising franchise companies worldwide. He has field experience in over 50 countries, including 24 new-country launches. Over his career, Ray served in a wide range of management and consulting roles in education, IT solutions, healthcare, hospitality, consumer services and business services.

In 2004, Ray and his wife Meaghan set up Envoy Investments LLC, an international franchise management and investment company. Under Envoy, Ray served as an international advisor and contracted executive for several leading franchise sector clients, including Online Trading Academy, FranConnect and Edwards Global Services, among others. In 2015, Ray founded FranLaunch USA to help international franchisors to expand in the U.S. market.

After a 15-year absence, Ray returned to St. Croix with his wife Meaghan and 10-year-old twins Lily and Ryan. On their visit, Ray and his children stopped in on campus to look through old yearbooks and reminisce about growing up on St. Croix.  After his visit he shared with us his thoughts about GHS and St. Croix.

“My high school years were a formative time in my life and career, and Good Hope provided the environment to lay the building blocks for higher education. The culture and focus was clear. Work hard, have fun, and get into the best college to fulfill your aspirations and dreams.  During the 80s, Good Hope had a talented group of teachers from a wide background under the leadership of Tanya Nichols. The faculty was simply top-notch, and he thankful to every one of them for contributing to my education and career. A couple teachers jump out in my mind. Ms. Martha Dumican’s Freshman English class instilled an understanding of grammar and writing that set me apart during my college years as a talented writer. Every day in my international business career, communicating through writing serves me as a valuable and vital skill for my ongoing success.”

Ray shared with us a special story of destiny “On my most recent visit to St. Croix last month, my family and I met up with my good friend Rosemarie Dizon for lunch, and we pondered our strange parallel journey since high school. Rosemarie and I were friends during our high school years, but we were also very serious and competitive rivals. Rosemarie was the president of the student council at Country Day, and I was the president of the student council at Good Hope. We also both graduated as our respective class valedictorians in 1986. Our senior year, our rivalry went to the next level when we discovered that we were both trying to get into Georgetown University. Surely Georgetown won’t accept two students from St. Croix, we thought. Not only were we both accepted to Georgetown, but we ended up in the same freshman dorm! Our senior year at Georgetown started on a tough note for Rosemarie and me both, when Hurricane Hugo hit St. Croix in September 1989. We met the challenge by organizing the Georgetown Hurricane Hugo Relief Fund, which raised thousands of dollars to assist our home island.

The story continues. Rosemarie and I both shared a passion for international affairs and business. We both went on to earn our MBAs from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, a leading program in international business. Rosemarie now lives in Dublin, and I live in Tucson, and we both continue to pursue our passion as global business executives. During that lunch at Rainbow Beach last month, we pondered how our personal stories and friendship came together — much like the fate of our two schools — from a healthy rivalry to a shared history and vision of future success. “

After such a meaningful visit, Ray’s two children insist on returning to St. Croix every year!


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