Aug. 3, 2005 A total of 100 youths attended Friends of V.I. National Park-sponsored eco-camps at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John, Friends president Joe Kessler said Tuesday. The fifth and final eco-camp for this year's summer season wrapped up last weekend.
Kessler said over the past few years, the Friends organization has reached out to areas across the Virgin Islands, where youths don't usually have the opportunity to experience the park.
He said the Friends funds the eco-camps as a way to foster the next generation of people concerned with conservation.
"We're whetting their appetite when they are very young," Friends development director Karen Brady said.
She said she hopes that some of the campers will think about careers in the park or with the Friends when they finish school.
Kessler said the cost of the eco-camps ran $20,000 this year.
In addition to the Friends, Texaco Caribbean, Prosser/ICC Foundation, Gruber Foundation, Disney Cruise Lines, Rotary East, and Graystone Builders contributed funds to pay for the camps.
The eco-camps are just one of the things the Friends do to get youths involved in the park.
Kessler said that the Friends also run a program that gives St. John teachers up to $500 to pay for educational projects using the park.
"They can use it as a way to teach science," Brady said.
He said that one teacher had students compare the environment around their homes with that in the park. In another, students evaluated the water quality in bays inside and outside the park.
Kessler said that while Friends staff has gone to the public schools to tell teachers about the opportunity, teachers seem reluctant to apply. He said no such problem exists with the island's private schools.
To apply for a Friends $500 grant, call Kristin Maize at the Friends. The number is 779-4940.
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