Aug. 2, 2005 St. John has 18 brand-new junior park rangers, thanks to a joint John's Folly Learning Institute and V.I. National Park program.
The junior rangers, ages 5 to 14, graduated Tuesday at a ceremony at the Learning Institute. It came at the end of the 1½-week program that had the youths out and about at various activities around the park.
"The whole thing was fun," Alli-Yah Henry, 6, said as she waited for the festivities to begin.
The kids received certificates, pencils with the park logo and badges.
They all had different stories to tell about what they liked best. Alli-Yah and a couple of her friends had lots to say about the turtles.
"The turtles eat the sea grass," said Jzanee Matthias-Penn, 7.
A'Feyah Smith, 7, said she liked the boat trip around St. John, courtesy of Caneel Bay Resort, the best.
And Latiah Jackson, 7, pointed out that they saw birds at the pond. Loran Jackson, 10, said he liked the swimming best. Junior counselor Oni Anthony, 15, said he thought the trip down the Reef Bay trail was the best thing he did.
Counselor Crystal Fortwangler said the kids had a different park-related activity every day. They visited Salt Pond, Reef Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Estate Concordia and Trunk Bay.
About a half-dozen of the students learned boat-building skills from Coral Bay resident Bob Wilkinson. They worked on two 12-foot dinghies.
Wilkinson, who lives aboard his handcrafted boat, said the kids learned patience and how to do something from the very beginning, as well as traditional boat-building skills.
"They had to learn how to measure accurately," he said.
While the kids had fun and learned some skills, the program is part of a bigger picture. The Learning Institute's director, Alvis Christian, said that children grow up on St. John not understanding what the park is all about.
"You don't hear any child say they want to be superintendent when they grow up," he said. This summer program exposes the children to all the facets of the park, as well as employment opportunities.
Fortwangler said the sponsors were exceptionally generous. In addition to the Friends of the Park, which paid for transportation, Caneel Bay Resorts and Concordia Studios and Eco-tents allowed the kids to use the resort's pool.
Fortwangler said Rotary Club of St. John and Starfish Market also contributed.
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