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Non-Profit Leaders Converge for Annual Community Foundation Celebration

June 22, 2007 — More than 150 community activists and philanthropists were entertained Friday morning by a dozen grantees of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands at the organization's annual meeting at Marriott Frenchman's Reef on St. Thomas.
There was jazz, dance and two classic compositions, "Kumbiya" and "Amazing Grace," played on recorders by the Joseph Sibilly Elementary School Ensemble. Malachi Thomas opened the morning's event on saxophone with his arrangement of "Equinox," and members of the Evelyn Marcelli Elementary School Dance Club wowed the audience with their choreography and moves.
Accompanying the entertainment was the news that CFVI had this year reached $5 million in assets, something Ricardo Charaf, chairman of the board, had set as a goal awhile back. His goal for 2010 is $10 million, he said at another CFVI function earlier this year.
In the 17-year history of the organization, CFVI has given an equal amount — $5 million — in grants, Charaf said Friday. Three million of that has been doled out in the last three years.
Based on the level of giving in the first half of 2007, Charaf said he expects CFVI to exceed the million-dollar mark this year.
Several of this year's scholarship recipients spoke of their plans at Friday's event, standing before a backdrop of student self portraits produced in the Andy Warhol silk-screen pop style, thanks to a grant given to art teacher Phebe Schwartz. The range of studies included marketing, nursing, medicine, criminal justice and a lot more, thanks to the generosity of CFVI and its donors. Between the college scholarships and summer-program grants, recipients total 83. Many grant and scholarship recipients were not in attendance because they are already participating in their chosen courses.
But their absence in no way dampened the enthusiasm of this year's meeting.
Among the speakers was Beth Marshall of the Family Connection Center, who addressed the pressing need for early-childhood education and support offered by the center on St. Thomas, which was the brainchild of former CFVI board members.
The hope and plan is to open a center on St. Croix this year, she said. The St. Thomas center, which opened in 2006, was established to offer training and developmental services to parents and childcare providers.
In addressing why people decide to establish scholarship funds, Trudie Prior, general manager of Coral World, said, "It was hard to find young people interested in marine science." So, Prior said, she felt the scholarships would spawn interest in careers in the field.
This is the fourth year Coral World has provided a $3500 scholarship to a student pursuing a career in any hard science at an accredited university. "Preference goes to marine science," Prior said.
For Norma Levin, it's another year under her belt, she said. Levin established the NSL 80th Birthday Fund, she said, "instead of inviting all you people to my 80th birthday party." The NSL scholarship was the first one established specifically for graduate work in the humanities. Often the humanities are overlooked in deference to math and science, said this year's recipient, Ashley-Ruth Bernier, in thanking Levin and the foundation.
"The humanities are the true essence of a society," said Bernier, who is pursing a master's degree at Farleigh Dickinson University in creative writing. She participates in a distance-learning program while teaching second and third graders at Gladys Abraham Elementary School.
Levin did not reveal how many years the scholarship has been given.
Along with the scholarships, CFVI also awarded 43 grants to high school students attending summer-enrichment programs. The grants covered a wide variety of programs, including junior statesmen programs at Stanford, Princeton and Yale; Lead America Youth conferences in Washington, D.C.; Broadway dance programs in New York City; a prestigious bio-medical internship at Harvard’s summer school; a cultural exchange in China; a Shakespeare immersion program in Italy; and a variety of other programs at colleges such as Barnard, the Rhode Island School of Design and Penn State University. "The response to this first-time USVI Youth Scholars Summer Program scholarship offering was overwhelming, garnering funding requests for over 70 different enrichment programs," said a CFVI news release.
Applicants were considered on an academic basis, as well as on community service and financial need. CFVI was assisted by a $150,00 appropriation from the V.I. Legislature.
Bernetia Akin, who presented the Patricia and Peter Gruber Foundation scholarship, best summed up the nature of the giving when she said the Grubers, "believe the best investment you can make is always in people, and in particular young people."
For a list and short profiles of this year's recipients click here.
For more on CFVI, go to www.cfvi.net
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