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Four Sojourner-Douglass Students Celebrate Important Milestone

Sept. 21, 2006 — In a small room in the rear of a little white church in Estate Lower Bethlehem, four students stood tall as their teachers and sponsors proudly recognized their educational milestone. Students of Sojourner-Douglass College accepted certificates Thursday for successful completion of the first requirements toward a career in the Hospitality and Tourism industry.
"This program began as a vision," said college director Shelby A. King. "There was a lot of praying, a lot of hoping and tears." More than a year and a half ago, King contacted Sen. Usie R. Richards about plans to establish a school on St. Croix. The project was kept "under wraps" to keep politics out of the process.
Keynote speaker Richards, who was integral in the development of the program and the college's decision to settle on the island, looked forward to the expansion of the student body. He congratulated the students on their accomplishments, emphasizing their potential as a result of their training. "I appreciate service with courtesy," Richards said.
Two certificates will be awarded to students who successfully complete the program. The first certificate is the Skills, Tasks, and Results Training Program developed by the Education Institute for the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The program provides education and hands-on training meeting American Hotel and Lodging Association requirements.
The second features the Crucian Caring and Helpful Attitudes in Rendering and Marketing Services. This program focuses on business standards, customer service and satisfaction, and general information about tourism and St. Croix. The six-month program began Sept. 5 and will end March 2007.
The original Sojourner-Douglass colleges began in the early 1970s. The college boasts eight campuses around the mainland and two in the Caribbean — the Bahamas and St. Croix. Their main campus is in Baltimore, Md. The college, named for Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, both 19th-century abolitionists and antislavery activists, holds classes Mondays and Wednesdays in a small room in the rear of the Beulah AME Zion Church.
AME churches are connected to the colleges through its founding members, who include Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. The college is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Maryland Commission on Higher Education.
Rev. Richard Austin, pastor of local AME Zion, believes the church community should reach out to the larger community. "As a church you have to be involved in outreach," Austin said. He said the notion of a college hosting classes in a church is not new.
"Harvard, Yale and schools like that started in churches also," Austin said, adding he was more than happy to accommodate the new school.
The four students — Rhenese Hall (who passed her exams with a perfect score), Sonja Rahmoun, Kema Guadaloupe, and Devin Carrington — were proud to be a part of this momentous day and are all looking forward to their next step: working in the field of hospitality and tourism. Hotels like The Buccaneer and Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort have confirmed their acceptance of the new interns, according to King.
For more information on how to become involved with Sojourner-Douglass College, contact director Shelby A. King at 713-7005.
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