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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Committee Approves Big Scholarship Boost for Top Grads

Senate Committee Approves Big Scholarship Boost for Top Grads

June 16, 2008 — The Legislature's Education, Culture and Youth Committee sent a bill forward Monday to increase college scholarships for the territory's high school valedictorians and salutatorians from $1,000 and $700, respectively, to $25,000 for both.
The V.I. Board of Education would continue to manage the scholarships, and recipients would have to return and work in the territory for a period of time after graduation. The scholarships would be renewable, with a maximum of $100,000 over four years. The eight annual valedictorians and salutatorians from the territory's public high schools would be eligible, as well as many of their counterparts from private and parochial schools.
"This bill is merely attempting to offer scholarships to our vals and sals (valedictorians and salutatorians) to allow them to attend any four-year college," said Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, the bill's sponsor, at the hearing in Frederiksted. "To those who would say there is a cost — yes, there is a cost, but this is important, and there is a greater cost if we don't do this."
Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry testified in support of the bill's intention, but with several caveats.
"The success of this scholarship will hinge on having a dedicated, renewable revenue stream and clear guidelines about the requirements associated with accepting these funds," she said.
There should be clarity about how long students would have to return to the territory to work, whether pursuing graduate degrees would be taken into account, whether students required to return would be guaranteed jobs and what the consequences of not returning to work would be, Terry said.
Voting yea were Nelson and Sens. Louis Patrick Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste, Neville James, Shawn-Michael Malone and Liston A. Davis. Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe was absent for the vote. It will now be considered by the Rules Committee and, if successful there, the full Legislature will vote on it.
A bill to reestablish the V.I. Youth Commission as an umbrella agency in charge of the territory's various youth programs and agencies was held in committee. Testimony against the bill came from Terry, Commissioner of Human Services Chris Finch, Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan, Commissioner of Housing Parks and Recreation St. Claire H. Williams and several other agency and foundation heads. The bill's goals are already being addressed through a recent executive order from Gov. John DeJongh Jr. creating a Governor's Children and Families Council, testifiers said. A motion was made to hold the bill in committee until senators can consult with the deJongh administration about how to move forward.
Voting to hold the bill in committee were Dowe, Hill, Baptiste, James, Malone and Davis. Nelson voted no.
A bill banning cell phones from public schools was held in committee at the request of Davis, the bill's sponsor, out of concern the bill would raise constitutional issues and pose difficult practical problems. Voting to hold the bill were Hill, James, Malone, Davis and Nelson. Baptiste and Dowe were absent.
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