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Rotary, VING Present School Planners to Students

Gov. John deJongh Jr. chats with students at Gladys Abraham Elementary.Students at Gladys Abraham Elementary got the red carpet treatment from the territory’s top brass with a presentation of school planners.
Gov. John deJongh Jr., Maj. Gen. Renaldo Rivera of the Virgin Islands National Guard, and Diane White, Rotary’s district governor, talked to students about their importance to the future of the Virgin Islands and how using the planners would help them with their individual goals.
The planners are part of the Coole School program, which promotes student, parent and teacher involvement in the total child. The program, which has been in the schools since the beginning of the decade, has clearly influenced kids’ lives and its drug-free message has clearly gotten through to students, the speakers said.
The program is a collaborative effort between Rotary, the National Guard and the V.I. Dept. of Education.
"It helps when I have to write down my assignments," Kobe Sutton, a sixth-grader said.
`Sutton said that the program had taught him how drugs can negatively affect the body and mind and said that he’d learned how to respond to those that might influence him to use drugs.
"I would tell them no, and what it would do to me" Sutton said. "And I would encourage them not to use drugs also."
The planners’ message also resonated with sixth grader Loranny Labady and fifth grader Shakil Persad, who both said they used the planner to write down homework assignments and spelling words.
Persad said he shows the planner to his parents so they can check his homework, but he also likes the puzzles in the planner for the fun factor and because sometimes they give him information.
"[The planner] is very entertaining because of the activities and puzzles," Labady said. "Also I learned about character traits: responsibility, caring, citizenship and integrity. I thank the Rotarians for the planner, I appreciate it."
Rotarian Joseph Felicien said this year Rotary provided some 2,300 of the planners to the schools with a $7,000 district simplified grant from the group. Felicien said this is the second year that the VING has been involved.
"We come out at least once a week to work with the students on judgment and character calls and consequences for actions," Lt. Col. Charlie Bates said. "One big change I’ve seen, kids [no longer] have excuses that they can’t find their homework. Now kids can find their homework all in one place. Parents can also track what their kids are doing on a daily basis."
Gladys Abraham Principal Lisa Hassel-Forde has been part of planner program since its fledgling days as a one-class pilot at Lockhart Elementary.
"I was there on the ground floor with [the planners]," Hassel-Forde said. "It was a kernel of an idea. It grew from one class to two classes and it’s been growing ever since."
Rotary Clubs involved in the effort included Rotary of Charlotte Amalie, Rotary of St. Thomas II, Rotary Club of St. Thomas East, Rotary Sunrise and Rotary Club of St. John.

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