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Thursday, March 23, 2023
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Stopping Crime at the Roots

Part of the Pistarckle Theater’s Summer Youth program is a four-week program for kids, which is funded by a grant from the VI Housing Authority. Fifteen or twenty kids from the community have the opportunity, to create skits, dialog and perform them. The theme is “Stopping Crime at the Roots.” The mini plays include stories of partying, drinking and kids being killed in a car crash, sexually active youth who get STDs, girls who are forced into sex by family friends, and kids having to decide if they want to join a gang to protect themselves.
The performances are very good and the kids learn a lot about the theater and also learn that these kinds of things are happening to kids in our community. I think it would be great to have a lot more kids and their families see these plays or the filmed performance which the kids also put together. It could help a lot of kids to stay out of trouble and also let them know that if they are being abused, they are not the only ones this is happening to.
We are in a very difficult economic time and a lot of things are going to have to change if we are going to continue to grow and prosper. Being a small, insular self-governing community creates a lot of potential for positive growth and also for abuse by leaders in the community. Because of the rapid changes in the world economy as well as all other aspects of human-behavior, we must begin to get serious about giving our children the tools that they need to grow up to be happy, productive, caring adults.
We have kids that go off into the world and become professional basketball players, doctors, lawyers, performing artists, musicians and high level participants in many different fields. Yet we have a high school literacy rate of one of the lowest in the Caribbean. I think that we should begin to pay some attention to giving the kids in our community who don’t go off to live a successful life somewhere else a chance to live a successful life here.
It was not that long ago that the University of the Virgin Islands was mainly training students to work in the government; as teachers, administrators, managers and similar positions. Now we have a Marine Science Program that is attracting students from all over the U.S. The aquaponics program on the St. Croix campus is attracting representatives from many countries to learn how it operates and establish similar programs.
Our spending per student in the public school system is about average in the U.S. at $9000 yet our average teacher’s pay is the same as the lowest state in the U.S. We need to consider changing this. Teaching is a very difficult job and it takes a very special person to make a career of it and continue to try and teach kids for twenty years. There may be some way that we can help create a different model for the education system. Training for teachers, sabbaticals, alternative periods of teaching and other new approaches of working in the school system might be worth exploring. We could increase the pay and make summer school available to all children to catch up or get ahead.
I have visited a lot of elementary schools this past year, both with Rotary East’s First Day of School Project and in my business. The elementary schools that I have visited all have posters that proclaim that they don’t tolerate bullying and others that state the school is a safe community for the children. In general the atmosphere in the schools that I have been in has felt very positive. I was in a school when a teacher brought a third grader to the Principals office and began to yell at the kid calling him a liar. Kids are like all humans when they are faced with anger or hate; the reaction is fight or flight. There is no possibility of learning anything at any age when presented with an attitude which rules through intimidation and fear. We have come a long way in a very short time but we are going to have to all work together if we are going to continue to get better. Child, spouse, or abuse of others cannot be tolerated at home, on the streets or in schools if we are going to continue to grow as a community.
It is difficult to grow and change without a lot of effort and we all have to begin to make the effort. We can get trainers to come to our community to give seminars to teachers and other school personal. We can begin to evaluate teachers and all employees in the Education Department on a yearly basis and provide ways to eliminate deficiencies. We can develop training programs for all Education Department employees. We can raise the pay of our teachers and find ways to make the Education Department become more efficient to offset the increases. We can develop summer programs to raise the literacy rate.
We can encourage EDC companies (and others!) to participate with Community Organizations to create pre-school and after school programs in all Public Housing Communities. We need to teach our kids to: be nice, obey the rules, take care of each other, learn to read, and expose them to music, art and sports at an early age so they can become successful adults, whether they stay in the community or not.
Let’s all make up our minds to work together to help all of our kids grow up and be successful adults.

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