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On Island Profile: Myron Corbett

June 26, 2005 — Giving back to the community is a bit of a juggling act for Myron Corbett, who balances two demanding positions. When he isn't directing the cast of the Graffiti Street TV show, Corbett is directing his players on the women’s varsity basketball team at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas.
"It all boils down to time management," Corbett said, "but it has worked out so far. And it’s rewarding seeing the growth of young people … there’s something inspiring in selfless service to others. What is life without giving back?"
Instilled in him by his parents, these values are what keep Corbett quite motivated in his work. "Some of the things that students have said to me over the years have definitely moved me to continue," he said. "I received a letter from one young lady saying that being in Graffiti Street was one of the most rewarding times in her life. That’s priceless."
Graffiti Street, a locally-based, nationally-recognized show for V.I. teens, was started in 1991 by former Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus. Corbett was hired during the program's second year on the air.
"I was living in Washington, D.C., at the time … I was about 27," Corbett said, "and Mr. Petrus and I met one night for dinner. We talked about all the things he was doing down in St. Thomas, and the show was mentioned as a possibility for me. When I came back home, it was definite."
Corbett moved to the nation's capital in tenth grade to attend high school and take care of his brother, who was diagnosed with cancer. "My mother thought that he might need some help," Corbett said, "so I went to help him. And I liked Washington, so I stayed."
Corbett added, however, that the cold weather always kept him thinking of home. "I was working at a marketing firm around the time of the dinner with Allie Petrus, and I was on the train home one day when it was particularly cold. I decided it was time to go home. I submitted my resignation on a Monday, and by the same afternoon, I was on a plane back. I always wondered how people could live in the cold."
Once in St. Thomas, Corbett took over Graffiti Street’s daily activities. "Petrus became a senator, and it kept him away from a lot of the things that were happening [at the show]," Corbett explained. "So, I worked with the kids here in St. Thomas and started an expansion of the program in St. Croix."
The show's growth took him to St. Croix every weekend for two years. "After that, I realized that I needed a coordinator for the St. Croix program, and we moved to do that," Corbett said. "Then I was directly in control of the St. Thomas cast."
In this capacity, Corbett was able to organize another phase in Graffiti Street programming—a special trip at the end of each season for students to travel all over the world.
"The kids needed to know how people lived outside the territory," Corbett said. "Our first trip was to Washington, D.C., and since then we’ve been to places like England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and Brazil. This year we did a trip to Panama, and the experiences there were nothing short of incredible."
Corbett, who believes that learning about other cultures compliments Graffiti Street’s commitment to diversity, added that this year’s students learned greatly from their Panamanian counterparts. "They sat down and talked about a whole lot of different things, like how in Panama the school year runs from March to December, while in the V.I. the school year is from August to June. They also got to be a part of the social crisis going on down there with social security benefits … it’s firsthand experience," Corbett said.
Corbett’s pride in Graffiti Street is matched only by the pride he has in the students he has coached in the past years. "Basketball has always been a big part of my life," he explained. "I had four other brothers and we used to represent the V.I. in international competitions … I started to think about coaching in my junior year of college."
Corbett started coaching in 1991 at Charlotte Amalie High School, leading the women’s team to ten straight championships in his eleven years of coaching there. During that time, Corbett also took an International Basketball Championship title with the V.I. Junior Basketball team.
These days Corbett can be found at UVI, helping and hoping to lead the women’s varsity basketball team to victory. "We’ve just started the move to put this team on the map," Corbett said, adding that last year the team only won one out of eight games played.
"I’m very competitive, and after being accustomed to winning, that was very frustrating. Some of the students are playing basketball for the first time in their lives … also, it’s difficult at the university level because UVI doesn’t offer full-time scholarships, so it’s hard to bring players in. But I’m pushing hard to turn the team around, and I think that we’re making great strides."
One of Corbett’s strategies is to utilize local events like UVI’s annual Paradise Jam. "I remember in the early '80s that Chaminade University from Hawaii — a small, unrecognized school — was able to upset the team from Virginia. And they were one of the best in the league," Corbett said. "After that, Chaminade’s enrollment shot up, and everybody was always talking about their victory."
Corbett hopes the same thing will happen for UVI. "It’s all about exposure," he said. "We have to think that at some point the V.I. women’s team will be there. It’s a dream that will put us out there for good."
"We have to take advantage of those opportunities," he concluded, "because those are the things that take you places."
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