June 30, 2003 – Two Virgin Islanders who represented the territory at a one-day summit for young adults, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Senate's Democrats in the nation's capital, came away invigorated, according to a release from Delegate Donna M. Christensen's office.
Juan Figueroa-Serville and Dahlia Richardson participated in roundtables, town hall meetings and break-out sessions Thursday on Capitol Hill, holding discussions with African-American members of Congress and Senate Democrats.
"Education, health care, homeland security, the economy and civil rights were discussed as Democrats on the Hill sought to solidify these issues with one of their most loyal constituencies, African-Americans from across the country," Christensen's release, distributed on Monday, stated.
Christensen, a physician and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, led the forum presentations on health care.
"We were pleased that over 300 young leaders from across the country participated and had a real chance to understand what is at stake … and why it is important for them to be active on issues of concern to us," she said.
Figueroa-Serville, a St. Croix resident, termed the summit "a wonderfully progressive experience." He said links drawn between employment, opportunity and the political activism of young people were enlightening.
"Our young people are hesitant to vote because they feel as though they are disenfranchised," he said. "If we focus on them with initiatives for employment and other programs, it will build their self-esteem and rejuvenate their excitement in the political process."
Figueroa-Serville, who was the youngest candidate for the Legislature last fall, said he will utilize the information he got at the summit to help make an impact on the V.I. community. "No jobs for young people equals no vote," he said.
Richardson, who represented the St. Thomas-St. John district, said the summit "created a porthole toward reform." She added: "With motivated young people, we can move into a constructive future. It takes everyone's input in order for our country and our islands to prosper."
V.I. Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, who formerly was on Christensen's staff, also took part in the forum, attending meetings on the economy and education.
Malone said that Bush administration cuts in education and teacher training programs will make "key aspects" of the territory's compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Education and of the new federal No Child Left Behind Act "difficult or even impossible to implement" in the Virgin Islands.
"It is no question that based on the national economic picture, the Virgin Islands will have to be extremely creative and flexible while doing more with less to survive these hardships," he said.
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