May 26, 2007 The V.I. Commission on the Status of Women (VICSW) recognized the winners of its 2007 essay contest for Womens History Month at Gertrude's Restaurant Saturday. More than 70 friends, family and supporters were in attendance at a reception to honor the eight St. Croix school children.
Rev. Toi A. Barbel, from the International Gospel Center of St. Thomas, gave the invocation. Barbel, also the health chairman for the commission, said, "These children are precious gems in our midst. It is wonderful to see so many boys expressing themselves in the written word."
Sonia L. Boyce, chairperson of VICSW, gave the opening remarks and welcome. Boyce gave words of encouragement to the children, saying, "Stay focused and be the best you can be."
Delegate Donna Christensen, a VICSW hall of famer, congratulated the parents of the winners saying, "Credit should be given to the parents, where it all starts, even before the teachers." Christensen went on to say, "I am so proud of these children. Their dreams are the blueprint of where we need to go."
The keynote speaker was Cheryl Francis, the wife of Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis. Francis said, "I am honored, delighted and ecstatic to be speaking to this group of children."
She added, "Find the thing you love most and do it. What the mind can conceive, it can achieve. Also, be a positive person in everything you do. Think about, prepare and plan for your future."
The eight students each read their essays to the group.
The theme for ninth- through 12th-grade students was What Does Having a Virgin Islands Constitution Mean to Me?
First-place winner, from the Manor School, was Jose Figueroa with his essay that provided a history of the Organic Act and the V.I. constitution. He received a check for $200 from the St. Croix Foundation.
Each winner also received a journal from Cheryl Francis and a certificate of achievement from VICSW, stating, "May your success be plentiful and rewarding and may each step you take lead you to greatness."
Second-place winner Anthony Lewis, also from Manor School, wrote his essay on Virgin Islanders acquiring more rights, such as the right to vote in presidential elections. He was given a check for $175.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students' essays were themed Walk a Mile in My Shoes and You Will Find.
The first-place winner was Niza Delerme, whose essay was written about her mother, Yolanda Rivera. Delerme was not present, but her essay was read by Judith Gadd, principal of the Manor School.
Second-place winner, also from Manor School, was Kristine Edney, writing about the trials and tribulations of her mother's life. Third-place winner, from Manor School, was Damani Pinder, who wrote about Rosa Parks in a first-person essay. Pinder received a check for $75.
The theme for fourth- through sixth-graders was My Dream for the Virgin Islands.
The first-place winner was Michael Thomas, from Manor School, who received a check for $100. Thomas' essay focused on how he would like to see the Virgin Islands in the future and how children can change the world by stopping violence and pollution.
Jude Ramirez, from Alexander Henderson Elementary School, was the second-place winner, receiving $75. Ramirez's essay was based on peace and unity between blacks, whites and Hispanics. The third-place winner, receiving $50, was Shane Aaron from Manor School, whose essay was on helping stray dogs find homes.
Judging the essays were Judith Malloy, Aesha Duvall and Celeste Lawrence.
Tara Aaron, mother of Shane Aaron, was moved to tears by the essay of Kristine Edney. Aaron said, "It was really touching to hear the personal feelings and thoughts of the children."
The contest was open to students in any V.I. school. Entries were checked for accuracy and use of punctuation, spelling and grammar. Essays were expected to exhibit effective use of descriptive language, voice and originality.
VICSW was established in 1966 to improve the status of the territory's women in the areas of health, housing, justice, pay equity, family relations, legislation, employment and politics.
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