Ralph Cantave is undoubtedly one of the superstars of FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication class of 2020. But salt doesn’t boast that it is salty; similarly, Cantave’s extensive work has resulted in an impressive list of achievements that most wouldn’t discover during a casual conversation with him.
By age 21, Cantave was already a radio host, two-time author and co-owner of The Johnny Caker mobile eatery and catering company in St. Maarten. His latest achievement will be graduating from Florida A&M University this semester with his bachelor’s of science in journalism.
Cantave’s social and educational engagements at such an early age won him the President of Parliament award for young people who are positively contributing to the community and the country. And, true to form, the drive to help better the people around him is at the core of his decision to move more than 1,500 miles away from his home and his wife to pursue his education.
“I felt like in order for me to be the man that I am to be for my family, to my wife, to myself, to my country,”Cantave said, “I had to finish this journey that I started, which was to finish school, get my degree, and come back home to help my island.”
Cantave said that he was always a journalist at heart. While he credits his homeroom teacher Kenneth Cook for formally introducing him to the world of journalism, Cantave says that his love of reading and pursuit of knowledge were instilled in him by his parents.
Despite not finishing elementary school, Cantave’s father Gerard Cantave taught his son how to read at a very early age. Cantave’s mother Martinesse Cantave was an extremely avid daily reader, to the point where she had begun to lose her Haitian accent. Together they continued to support their son as he climbed higher and higher in his educational pursuits.
Now that this journey has nearly come to an end, Cantave is happy to say that it has all been well worth the sacrifice. He feels that the skills that he’s learned will allow him to continue his work as an adviser to the “Teen Times.” As a former youth editor of this paper, Cantave is now excited to give students access to knowledge to help improve the quality of writing coming from these young minds.
His wife, founder of the Phenomenal Girls Society and fellow co-owner of The Johnny Caker, Charity Cantave, says she also sees the growth in her husband which has made her sacrifice so worthwhile.
“I’ve seen how he has become more humble and focused while he was away,” she said. “Because when you are, for lack of a better word, a celebrity, you can be filled with a lot of pride. But becoming a student has made him embrace the process in a place where not many people knew him,” she said.
“Ralph has also been able to learn and grow and learn from people who have gone even further,” she added. “So while he was a big fish in a small pond here in St. Maarten, I realized that he was slowly becoming a big fish over there because he was able to learn from his peers and he was able to learn from his superiors.”
With the rapid progression of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cantave made a quick return home without a chance to say full goodbyes to everyone he’s met along the way. Still, he says that he is grateful for the people he’s come to know so deeply and he can feel their love even from so many miles away.
“Thank you [to FAMU] for opening up to receive this island boy,” Cantave said. “Thank you for allowing me to learn, grow, share and help uplift the university. Thank you to professors who helped refine me professionally and personally during their office hours. And thank you students and class of 2020 for embracing me …. Thank you for all the laughter, conversations, stories, listening and love.”