The highly decorated valedictorian, Orville Mckellop, yesterday stood on a stool to reach the top of a lectern, from where he delivered a clarion call for young people to do what he has been doing since birth – rising above his falls.
“I have fallen so many times that I can’t even count, yet gotten back up more times than I can even remember,” said the youngster afflicted by a genetic condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease).
Orville, whose father and baby brother also struggle with the disease, was among nearly 100 students who graduated from Jonathan Grant High School yesterday, November 21.
He was the shortest graduate in height, yet the tallest in academic success.
Orville this year attained 10 CSEC subjects (General) from the Caribbean Examination Council.
He copped 11 awards during the ceremony, making him the most decorated member of the graduating class.
The school, led by Principal Dr. O’Neil Ankle, presented Orville with awards for feats such as:
- Best performance at the school in CSEC
- Top male student in English Language
- Top male student in Geography
- Most resilient student
- Top male student in Office Administration
- Top male student in Visual Arts
- Top male achiever in his class
Basking in the moment, Orville, now in sixth form, told The Beacon: “I feel overjoyed and overwhelmed, and I am really at a loss for words, but this goes to show that hard work does pay off.”
He, during the valedictory address, noted that a number of his peers also have attained excellence.
“Standing up here [on the podium], I feel like a proud father,” Orville said, evoking laughter inside the packed New Life Worship Centre in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
He expressed optimism that members of the graduating class will excel in their various vocations.
“The journey here is what shaped us into individuals who will go on to do great things that will echo into eternity,” Orville posited.
He continued: “As we journey out into the world, we will fall a thousand times, but stand back up a million more, for what defines us is not how we fall but how we rise after falling.”
At the end of his address, Orville received a tight hug from his mother, Patricia Hayles, who proudly rushed to the front of the audience to greet her charismatic son.
Hayles told The Beacon: “I am really feeling good and excited about my son. He went through a lot, but God is on the job and I feel really good and excited about him.”
Hayles was not the only one feeling good and excited about Orville. There were many other people who treated the youngster like a celebrity – from showering him with praise to swamping him for photo opts.
Orville, not letting even a morsel of the moment go to waste, took the time to soak it all up.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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