STATE OF THE ISLANDS AND EDUCATION

Dear Source,
Over the past week, I have read the comments of my fellow Islanders (local or abroad) regarding the State of the Islands, especially in regards to education and business.
Today I've read the many contributions to the St. Thomas Source and I agree with most of what I see. However, the three commentaries that I agree with most are the contributions by: T. Tutein of Washington, D.C. titled, "Crime problems won't end unless apathy does;" Deborah Stevens Hamilton titled, "The UVI family partners in volunteer work;" and Dwayne Henry of Coats, N.C. titled, "Education one of three top priorities." (See Source Open Forum section for these writings.)
Let me also say that I remember Yamileth Aubain of Atlanta, Ga. when my father took us to her family's home back when Mr. Aubain built race cars from his garage in the 1970s in Estate Tutu on St. Thomas. I had no idea that years later we'd end up far from home as adults. It is clearly obvious that those of us who grow up in the islands, recognize limited futures and choose to leave for the mainland for better opportunities and a safer environment.
When I graduated from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School in 1987, then Gov. Alexander Farrelly and our keynote speaker, then Social Welfare commissioner Juel Rhymer both advised us to "Go to College…," and with great endearment asked us to "…return home and contribute to our community." Now I live in Washington state with my family and can say with all certainty, that I would love to come home and contribute as best I can.
I'm almost sure that most of the islanders living abroad would probably agree. However, for most it won't happen until there are significant changes to the state of education, law enforcement, and community services and business. To ask residents to send their children to schools that cannot offer them what they can and will find on the mainland is most difficult.
In agreement with what people have been stating for over twenty years, "There is a problem and things need to change." This has been stated to the point of exhaustion for some and it is still new to those who arecoming into self-realization. If you'd tell me that is already going on, then I'd reply to you that the same small repetitive attempts have been made without addressing the root causes of the problem why those attempts keep failing.
Notice the message that Gordon Finch (the outgoing V.I. Port Authority executive director), in his interview in the St. Thomas Source dated May 6, 2002 has sent; the message the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association and the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges) have sent. These are direct addresses to the issues of the U.S. Virgin Islands community. We need to come to some simple realizations and act as one single community with a plan going forward.
There are so many sources of talent around the continental United States in education, public and private life that have roots in the Virgin Islands. I have no doubt that with those minds and bodies that change can be accomplished. If I can recognize all the many individual calls for reform, funding, support, recognition from out here in Washington state, I know there are so many others around the nation that have not made their voices heard yet. Find a leader we can gather around. Formulate the relationships between the local government, nonprofit and private organizations with leadership teams that are willing to help. I'm willing to join the efforts to make a better today and tomorrow for the Virgin Islands and her children. I believe strongly that there are many others out there who will do the same.
One suggestion that I will submit to Gov. Charles Turnbull would be to canvass every public and private organization with ties to the Virgin Islands and get the word out that a figurative call to arms is needed. In the recent months that I've followed the daily occurrences of my home, I've gone through a gamut of thoughts, emotions, ideas and dialogue with friends and relatives. They agree on what I've written here today. I agree with what has been said and written by others on this subject in the last twenty years. Though times are tough, it's at these moments that people are at their best. Take advantage of this opportunity before it's too late.
Clarence Michael Conner
Kenmore, Wash.

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