Aug. 31, 2003 — The University of the Virgin Islands Family Life Center (FLC) will continue to offer after-school and summer programs to young people of the Michael Kirwan Elementary School on St. Thomas, thanks to a three-year grant that was recently renewed and increased.
The goal of the UVI-FLC is to reduce violent and anti-social behavior through proactive and enrichment programs. The grant, increased by $30,000 to $250,000, is from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's Office of Minority Health and Central State University.
"I was elated. I was quite happy," UVI-FLC Director Carmen Rogers-Green said of learning about the grant renewal. She was especially grateful because competition for funding had been intense, with 68 institutions applying. Additionally, while funding had not been renewed for eight other programs across the nation, UVI-FLC received an increase.
"I feel like the hard work we have put in is being rewarded with additional funds," Rogers-Green said in a UVI release.
The extra funds will be used to expand the reading program, increase the number of mentors, expand the steel band program and increase the number of workshops for parents.
Very comprehensive in its scope, the program offers activities in several areas. Academic and cultural development, the two main components, give assistance with homework, mathematics and reading enrichment, and steel orchestra. The other components are recreational enrichment, career awareness, personal development and family bonding.
To improve family bonding, each year the students, their parents and siblings, and members of the UVI-FLC staff attend a bonding retreat. During the 2002-2003 year bilingual mentors were brought on board to help address the needs of Spanish-speaking students who speak English as a second language.
The UVI-FLC has served 40 students during the academic year and 35 students during the summers, throughout the program's three years of existence. Originally catering to 11- to 15-year-olds, the program was modified to target nine- to 12-year-olds.
"We were able to impact younger children over a shorter period of time," Rogers-Green said of the decision for the change. "The younger the child, the more impact we have."
Rogers-Green said that the UVI-FLC has made a difference in the lives of the participants.
"It is an alternative to children not having anything to do. It has become a focus for them. The children love coming to the program," she said.
The students enjoy the programs so much that many are disappointed when they become 13 years old and are no longer eligible to participate, said Rogers-Green, adding that the UVI-FLC's intervention is "a drop in the sea" compared to what the community needs.
Along with the director, key staff are prevention specialist Dahlia
Stridiron, program specialist Dona Sorhaindo and part-time evaluator Stevie Henry. All participated in writing the grant. Rogers-Green thanked her small staff and the center's community partners for their dedication.
UVI-FLC community partners that contribute funds or in-kind assistance to help sustain the program include the V.I. Education Department, the V.I. Housing Authority, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, Trust Asset Management LLP, Peacemakers Soccer Club and John Hodge, chief instructor of the V.I. Territorial Court Rising Stars Steel Orchestra.
UVI St. Thomas Campus Associate Chancellor Dr. Doris Battiste initiated the Family Life Center at UVI three years ago.
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