The V.I. Scholars Summer Leadership Institute kicks off its second annual Expert Series on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Windward Passage hotel with keynote speaker Noreen Michael, former commissioner of Education and chief of staff at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Speakers will cover subjects such as social networking and the importance of higher education. Chief Executive Officer Lincoln Liburd, who founded the institute, said speakers will discuss problems in the Virgin Islands, how to remedy them and how to make a difference.
About 14 students in the V.I. Scholars program and their families are attending the event, and this year it is open to the public. The V.I. Scholars Summer Leadership Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching the territory’s youth how to help the community and reach their goals.
“We’re all working to bring in great speakers for kids,” Liburd said. “They get that if you can really inspire kids and provide them with the proper resources to make a difference, they will.”
During the Expert Series, speakers will talk about issues that impact youth in the territory. They will also discuss solutions for those issues and what youth can do to get involved and be a part of the solution.
Liburd said it’s a community-based event as it encourage participants’ families and other residents to join in discussions about everything from violence to alcohol abuse.
“The Expert Series is about building relationships with people that can help form ideas,” Liburd said. “When kids leave our program, they’ve developed a library of not just issues, but solutions.”
Liburd said the Expert Series is just one of four components covered at the institute; there is also an academic program, leadership series and a mentoring program.
In the academic program, students study a range of topics from public speaking to entrepreneurship while they begin social impact projects. The leadership series brings out successful individuals in the community to speak about their experiences. The mentoring program gives participants the opportunity to help other kids in community.
Liburd said he started the institute because he felt youth should be empowered to think critically, ask questions, learn and have access to expert opinions. He said the institute is still developing the four-year program where activities change each year.
In their senior year, participants write a thesis on an issue in the community, gathering research on things like the number of families and children impacted as well as providing potential solutions to the issue.
Liburd said he’s working with schools and government offices to recruit youth for the program. The institute encourages parents, siblings and residents to get involved as well, as the program is truly a community effort, he said.
“Our program informs (youth) that success is a real thing and they can take advantage of the opportunity. It’s not beyond them,” he said.
Event sponsors include Windward Passage, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, the Department of Labor, the Office of the Governor, the St. John Historical Society, the St. John Accommodation Council, the St. John Community Foundation and Bolongo Bay Beach Resort.