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Student Summer Programs Wrap Up with Banquet

Aug. 17, 2007 — Despite a hurricane about to pass 100 miles south of St. Croix, Gertrude’s Restaurant was packed Friday for the end-of-season closing banquet for interns in the Labor Department’s summer education and work programs.
The programs include Labor Investing for Tomorrow for college students, Partial Employment Technique for high school students and five independent summer-study programs. Students from each of the programs came to the podium to talk about their experiences over the summer, accompanied by a series of PowerPoint presentations they put together themselves.
The Partial Employment Technique is meant to engage area high school students in extensive career exploration combined with academic enrichment. Over the summer, students have classroom training in computer literacy and get work experience and a paycheck at the end.
“These are my babies,” said PET Coordinator Angela Christian. “I love working with these kids. Making a difference in their lives makes a difference in my life.”
Kids and instructors from each of five separate summer education enrichment programs came up to the podium in turn. The Family Life Institute sponsored a workshop in organic farming. Each youth shared one thing he or she learned, including watering plants in the evening to protecting the roots from burning and how to tell a tree’s age and history from its rings. In the tropics, narrow rings mean dry years and wide rings wetter years.
BizVI Effect ran an entrepreneurship study session, putting together a mock business. It was a CD and DVD store, and the students created a business plan, structure, marketing strategy, slogans and advertising plan. The kids also trained in Word, PowerPoint, Money and other commonly used Microsoft computer software.
Helping Children Work, an afterschool and summer school program in Grove Place run by Harriet Williams, focused on reading assistance, independent reading and typing instruction, among other things.
“We pushed them to type everyday,” Williams said. “They’d get bored with that, and then we worked on
independent reading.”
Beverly Edney outlined the Open Door Project’s ambitious summer program.
“Money management, building credit, budgeting, decision making, conflict resolution, anger management, preparing for the future and creating a resume,” Edney said. “These are some of the topics we covered in our five weeks of training.”
After the high school programs were finished, college students and graduates in the LIFT program got their turn at the podium. The LIFT program was established in 1989 to give college juniors, seniors and graduate students work experience helpful to their chosen careers.
Interns also get an opportunity to network with professionals, giving them an incentive to stay or come back for careers in the Virgin Islands. Interns are college juniors, seniors or graduate students and must have a GPA of at least 2.8. A dozen young men and women interned at Hovensa, the University of the Virgin Islands, Juan Luis Hospital and an array of government agency offices on St. Croix.
Tavia Southwell aspires to become a lawyer, and this year she worked as an intern for an attorney at the V.I. Justice Department.
“I thing the program was wonderful,” Southwell said. “I wish I could do it next summer, too.”
Dominic Latty is back on St. Croix after graduating from Rhode Island’s elite Brown University with a major in computer science.
“I don’t want to be part of the brain drain,” Latty said. “What I saw was an opportunity to bring my skills to the island, and I am really glad to be a part of that.”
Another student participant, Amina Johnson, is keeping up a 4.0 grade point average at UVI.
All these programs are overseen by the Department of Labor. Commissioner Albert Bryan Jr. said a few words about the importance of these sorts of programs.
“Education is the liberator and equalizer of men,” Bryan said. “It is the key that unlocks the windows of opportunity that leads to a higher standard of living for us all. However, in order to ensure the success of our territory in a global economy, it is imperative that we pool our resources to produce a work-ready labor force that is dynamic, career-driven, adaptable and technically literate. This is the challenge of 21st century America, and as a result the challenge for the Virgin Islands.”
Workforce Development Coordinator Lauretta Petersen thanked the many individuals and organizations that gave time, money, in-kind contributions and other assistance to help make these summer intern programs happen.
“We cannot do this alone,” she said. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for our youth, nurturing them, keeping them out of the streets, when there are times I know they are drawn that way.”
The afternoon’s program was slightly accelerated so families could go home and prepare for the possible storm winds and rain from Hurricane Dean Friday night.
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