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CFVI Celebrates Youths' Accomplishments

June 25, 2005 – Inundated with reports of teen pregnancy, substandard test scores, violence and problems in the public school system, the community tends to mourn the loss of the territory's young people rather than celebrate their achievements. Celebration was the theme, however, at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands' annual meeting Friday, as the talents, achievements and dreams of 43 of the territory's young people were showcased.
Jasen Thompson, for example, dazzled the audience with a saxophone serenade that he composed himself, simply entitled "Thanks." Thompson, a recent graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School, was awarded a scholarship from the Bill Otto and Shari Decker Music Fund for his work in three of the CAHS bands, as well as for community service done for programs such as Upward Bound Youth and the Encore Band Camp.
Otto, a "frustrated musician" himself, presented the award. He was as greatly impressed with Thompson's parents as he was with Thompson. "They have been a great inspiration to Jasen," Otto said. "After meeting them and seeing Jasen, we have decided to double the amount of the scholarship." Thompson, an honors student, will put the funds toward attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he will major in music education.
Attendees were also moved to tears by an essay written and read by Jamilya Christopher, a sophomore at CAHS. In the essay entitled "Once a Man, Twice a Child," Christopher related her family's struggles in caring for a beloved grandmother with Alzheimer's. "When I was born, I was sick, and had to receive special care.… My grandmother was the one who took care of me. Granny took care of me, and now I'm taking care of her," Christopher read. The young girl exhibited great strength as she continued to describe her grandmother's condition, crying with the audience as she remembered some more difficult moments, and sharing some wise lessons she has learned in the process.
"We must live one moment at a time, because none of us knows the path on which we will walk," she said, adding that when she considers the true laws of life, she knows that the "only thing that will last is my relationship with my family."
Christopher's essay was selected out of 1,000 entries for the Laws of Life Program. As she took the stage, presenter Patricia Gruber said, "We see these winners as future leaders."
Indeed, all of the selected students seemed to fit into this category. Invited on stage to discuss their future plans, each related news of college, extracurricular programs or acceptance to summer institutes designed to benefit them in their last years of high school. Many discussed returning to the territory to open their own businesses to benefit the community.
Many of these dreams could become reality through the work done by the CFVI, which made the scholarships possible and gave these young people a reason to celebrate.
Norma S. Levin, founder of the NSL 80th Birthday Fund (a scholarship awarded to graduate students), concluded the awards segment by observing that most of this year's winners were girls. "It's not that we don't offer scholarships to boys," Levin said. "It's just that they don't apply. We have to get the boys out — the V.I. is a great place, but even I, as a woman, don't want to see it become a total matriarchal society."
CFVI's scholarship program is made possible through money donated by the organization's "angels," members in the community who contribute $500 or more annually to provide the support for all of the CFVI programs. According to CFVI chairman Ricardo Charaf, the angels this year provided more than $250,000, helping to increase the number of named funds to 70 and surpassing the foundation's goals and intake from previous years. Charaf said the foundation's assets have increased to almost $4 million, far higher than 2003's $2.7 million figure.
The foundation's scholarship chair, Ruth E. Thomas, added that more than $95,000 was awarded in scholarships this year. "We were forced to find additional funds this year because of the number of applicants," Thomas said.
The meeting also featured performances from mini-grant recipients Adventist Youth Drum Corps, which opened the event, and the Love City Leapers.
The Leapers, a group of younger students coached by Lisa Penn and Viveca Webster-Hodge, displayed various jump-rope techniques such as the Chinese Wheel — a version of double dutch — and double, side and back jumps done at fantastic speeds. The team, which started in 1999 with nine members, has now blossomed into a full 32 and plans to use the mini-grant to purchase some "much needed uniforms."
"We plan to be a part of the community forever," Dee Baecher-Brown, executive director of the foundation, said in closing. Baecher-Brown's husband, Richard Brown, was also part of the program, giving a short report on CFVI's Fatherhood Collaborative, of which he is a part. Brown was accompanied by Delroy "Ital" Anthony, a dedicated father and musician, who also shared a song written on the principles of raising children.
The 2005 Scholarship Recipients are:
ISS Summer Enrichment:
Maxine Emerich
Nicole T. Francis
LaToya Donastorg
Jenelle Penha
Mia Denee Todman
3-D Scholarship: Kayalyn Edmeade
Coral World Fund: Chalaine A. Barry
Artrelle M. Wheatley Scholarship: Shenelle Donovan
Driehaus Scholarship Fund: Laurel N. Daley, Kymnesha L. Richardson
Tunick Family Business Scholarship: Jenelle Jeppesen
Drury Capital Scholarships:
Max Bangs
Laverne K. Francis
Britni Lettsome
Megan Alexis Livisay
Ebony C. Petersen
Alexander A. Farrelly Award: Clytie Brown
McBride Family Scholarship: Lisa LaPlace
Peter Gruber Foundation Fund: Cadwell Turnbull
Charaf Family Scholarships: Willisa M. Pinney, Shiraz M. Shafquat
Miller Properties Scholarship: Lia Anaya Ortiz
Theodore E. Sharp Fund: Shawn Garcia, Victoria McFarlane
Anna Greene Walsh Scholars:
Dara C. Boyce
Alia Joi Joseph
Shana Karlin
Lewis Letang
Geneva Lockhart
Tischer Lockhart
Edric A. Robinson II
Arianna L. Smith
Shalani Vanterpool
Charaine T. Skelton
Atlantic Southern Fund:
Courtney Fangmann
Jenel Murray
Makeida A. Phillip
Jonathan Rodriguez
Aimee Sanchez
GERS Scholarship: Maria Arroyo, Michelle Ulysses
NSL 80th Birthday Fund: Tamisha Navarro
Bill Otto and Shari Decker Music Fund: Jasen Thompson
Laws of Life: Jamilya Christopher

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