Category: Latest Updates

St. Croix Foundation Offers Scholarship Opportunities through the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund and St. Croix Educational Complex 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee Fund

St. CROIX, U.S.V.I., May 17, 2024 – St. Croix Foundation is pleased to announce two competitive scholarship opportunities for 2024 St. Croix graduates through the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund and the St. Croix Educational Complex (SCEC) 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee Fund. A minimum of one scholarship of up to $5,000 will be awarded from the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund to a graduating senior from a St. Croix public high school; the SCEC 20th Anniversary Reunion Fund will award a minimum of one scholarship, not to exceed $5000, to a graduate of the St. Croix Educational Complex. The Foundation will begin accepting applications for both Funds on May 17, 2024, and the application deadline is June 14, 2024.

Open to 2024 graduates from the St. Croix Educational Complex, the SCEC 20th Anniversary Reunion
Fund requires that all applicants provide proof of acceptance to an accredited college or university and indicate and maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher. The Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund is open to all public high school 2024 graduates who must also indicate acceptance to an accredited institute of higher learning and maintain a GPA of 2.0 and higher. All applicants will be asked to submit a 500-word essay describing a time they met and overcame an obstacle, as well as a video presentation describing their educational goals. Applications will be reviewed by the St. Croix Foundation Grants Review Committee and must be received no later than June 14, 2024.

The Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund was established by Junior Gaspard, a graduate of Central High School and John H. Woodson Junior High School, in honor of his grandparents. Gaspard recalls the hard work and determination embodied in his grandfather’s spirit when he moved the entire family to St. Croix from St. Vincent. This, combined with his grandmother’s resilience as she courageously contended with the loss of her eyesight, provided a road map to overcoming challenges with strength and perseverance. St. Croix Foundation for Community Development (SCF) administers the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund to provide opportunities to youth who have met obstacles but persevere despite these challenges and see education as a means to achieving personal and professional success that can then be shared with the next generation.

Upholding the spirit of the Williams Opportunity Fund, Anquanette Gaspard, sister to Junior Gaspard and granddaughter of Patrick and Amelia Williams, also recognized an opportunity to increase support for St. Croix youth and established the St. Croix Educational Complex 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee Fund together with the SCEC’s 2003 alum to encourage giving back to the next generation of young people.

Application Process. To apply, interested students should visit the Foundation’s website at https://www.stxfoundation.org/grants-scholarships/ where Application Guidelines can be found. All applications are due by June 14, 2024. Applicants will be informed of decisions by July 3, 2024.

All scholarship recipients are required to report on their successes and challenges throughout the year to help ensure that the Fund continues to meet current needs and to provide students with additional support if needed. If challenges or questions arise regarding completing the application and/or obtaining required documents, staff is available to assist at lcox@stxfoundation.org and/or ajohnson@stxfoundation.org.

St. Croix Foundation wishes to extend its sincerest appreciation to the Advisors and Donors of the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund and St. Croix Educational Complex 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee Fund and the class of 2003, who are strategically giving back to the next generation. For more information about how to support these special funds, please visit the Foundation online at www.stxfoundation.org or call 340.773.9898.

St. Croix Foundation Offers STEM Scholarships to St. Croix Graduating Seniors through the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation is pleased to offer a minimum of three scholarships between $500 and $5,000 each to 2024 graduating seniors on St. Croix through the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund. The Foundation will begin accepting applications for the 2024 Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund beginning May 15, 2024, and the deadline to apply is June 14, 2024.

Open to 2024 graduates from St. Croix public, private, or parochial schools, the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund requires that applicants be pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Applicants must provide proof of acceptance to an accredited four-year college or university to study and must indicate and maintain a GPA of 2.75 or higher. Applications will be reviewed by the St. Croix Foundation Grants Review Committee and must be received no later than June 14.

The Lang-Wise STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Scholarship Fund was established in the fall of 2022 at St. Croix Foundation by St. Croix resident and engineer Raydiance Wise. Recognizing that scholarships help to cover significant costs associated with higher education, this award is designed to encourage students to pursue STEM-related fields of study by offsetting expenses related to travel, clothing, textbooks, and other expenses that become burdensome. The Fund supports graduating seniors from public, private, or parochial schools on the island of St. Croix.

In its first official cycle, the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund awarded $13,500 to five St. Croix youth studying nursing, physics, computer science, biology and cyber security at institutions including Howard University, Northeastern University, Texas State University, University of Tampa and Nova Southeastern University.

Application Process. To apply, interested students should visit the Foundation’s website at https://www.stxfoundation.org/grants-scholarships/ where Application Guidelines can be found. All applications are due June 14. Applicants will be informed of decisions by July 3rd. All scholarship recipients are required to report on their successes and challenges throughout the year to help ensure that the Fund continues to meet current needs and to provide students with additional support if needed. If challenges or questions arise regarding completing the application and/or obtaining required documents, staff is available to assist at ajohnson@stxfoundation.org or lcox@stxfoundation.org.

St. Croix Foundation wishes to extend its sincerest appreciation the Lang-Wise family, who is strategically and intentionally supporting our young people. For more information about how to support the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund, please visit the Foundation online at www.stxfoundation.org or call at 340.773.9898.

St. Croix Foundation Hosts Inaugural KIDS COUNT USVI Summit With Key Child Welfare Stakeholders

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, May 2, 2024 – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development’s (SCF) KIDS COUNT USVI Team hosted its first KIDS COUNT USVI Summit April 16-17, 2024, on St. Croix at The Grange Event Center near Anna’s Hope

Entitled Answering the Call: We are the System and the Solution, the event was held in partnership with the Office of the Governor and convened a carefully curated cohort of key stakeholders from the public, private, and civic sectors who directly impact KIDS COUNT USVI.  Despite the dismal trends reported in the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book, the Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Team believes that the size of the Territory, and even our status, may represent untapped opportunities to do things differently: to make radical and rapid strides in the area of child well-being.

The ultimate goal of the Summit was to fulfill the KIDS COUNT USVI Team’s pledge to activate the data published in the annual Data Book by creating a safe space for key stakeholders to cultivate relationships across sectors and, in turn, co-create new, cohesive systems of support for our Territory’s children.

KIDS COUNT USVI TEAM: Left to right: Deanna James, President of St. Croix Foundation; Laurence Blake, Data Researcher and Designer; Dr. Saul Santiago, Principal Data Analyst; Lilli Cox, Dir. Communications & Community Investments, SCF; Dr. Anna Wheatley Scarbriel, Special Projects and Production Lead, and Chermaine Hobson, Sector Liaison

The Summit was facilitated by internationally renowned systems change expert and founder of The Outside, Tuesday Rivera, who has led numerous communities through the deliberative and collaborative process of co-designing new ways of “doing” and “being,” which lead to radical systems change.  A session was also led by Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, formerly of Grantmakers for Education and author of The Future of Smart, who offered a compelling perspective on the American educational system, calling for a human-centered approach that is adaptive to children’s needs and assets as social beings and is less linear and mechanistic than traditional methods.

Some notable highlights from the two-day convening included an early morning serenade from the youth choir of the St. Croix Seventh Day Adventist School as well as a powerful video presentation entitled “Sankofa,” which is an African word that translates to ‘go back and fetch it.’ The video offered a reflective snapshot of the story of the Territory’s children from the Pre-colonial Period to the Present, highlighting the evolution of the Territory’s enslaved population from the 18th Century. As outlined in “Slave Demography of the Danish West Indian Islands” by Hans Christian Johansen, St. Croix’s enslaved population in the early 1800s topped out at 27,006 relative to significantly lower numbers on St. Thomas and St. John at 5,737 and 2,492, respectively (The Scandinavian History Review Incorporating Economy and History, v.29:1, 1981.) Another compelling data point from the past included the fact that in Earle B. Ottley’s, Trials and Triumphs, The Long Road to a Middle Class Society in the U.S. Virgin Islands, from 1903 to 1915, up to three-quarters of children born in the Virgin Islands died, indicating how much progress the U.S. Virgin Islands has made over time.

According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “There are really no words to articulate how both transformational and inspirational the Summit was. Over the course of the Foundation’s 33 years of service, we have hosted a significant number of gatherings. But this meeting was different. In fact, we made a bold decision to frame the summit as a Village Council Meeting, with guests representing not just executives, lawmakers, and leaders, but also Griots, Elders, and Allies – all armed with a multitude of tools, deep wisdom, and hopefully, the will to solve the complex social problems confronting our Children… together!”

From start to finish, the Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Team sought to demonstrate to Summit participants that change doesn’t have to be legislated by policy. In truth, communities can spur radical systems change through a single collective decision – made by just a few – to change their behavior. The Summit also highlighted the issue of Spirituality as a critical component of child well-being with an inspirational “Grounding Ceremony” from Tahirah AbuBakr, a member of the St. Croix Council of Elders who challenged attendees to remember the central role that Elders have played in ancestral societies relative to transferring wisdom, spirituality, and historical cultural values to youth.

The KIDS COUNT USVI Data Researcher and Designer, Laurence Blake, remarked “The summit ignited hope and purpose within our team. Witnessing stakeholders unite to address child well-being challenges was inspiring. Facilitators like Tuesday Rivera and Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen showcased new pathways for change. The event fostered collaboration and innovation, empowering us to transcend boundaries and prioritize children’s welfare.”

From the beginning of their stewardship of KIDS COUNT in the USVI, St. Croix Foundation committed to moving beyond rote data collection. The 2024 KIDS COUNT USVI Summit intentionally made space for the collaboration necessary for systems change. Linda Stamper-Keularts, Director of Advancement at Good Hope Country Day School, spoke on the outcomes of the Summit, stating, “Attending the KIDS COUNT Summit was an enlightening experience that truly underscored the importance of collaborative action in tackling the multifaceted challenges faced by our youth.  The Summit brought together a diverse range of nonprofit organizations and GVI agencies from various sectors, fostering rich discussions, new relationships, and innovative solutions to address issues confronting our youth. Good Hope Country Day School is feeling empowered and motivated to continue to advocate for the well-being of our youth.”

In her framing remarks at the start of the Summit, Foundation CEO James outlined what she hoped attendees would walk away from the gathering having learned: THAT EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED TO EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED TO EVERYTHING! She closed by stating, “What the Foundation has come to learn, is that Change, real sustained Change, isn’t often an outgrowth of a comprehensive, well-framed strategic plan or policy agenda, but in some ways (in fact, in many ways), it’s electrified, very simply, by People fused in courageously cultivated Relationships committed to solving big problems – not alone, not siloed, not solo, but together! Cultivating those relationships is the real challenge and an important, often undervalued, under-prioritized factor in systems change.”

An electronic copy of the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book is available at https://stxfoundation.info/2023KIDSCOUNTUSVIDataBook.

St. Croix Foundation for Community Development would like to thank the Office of the Governor and Policy Advisor on Workforce Development and Education, Sana Joseph Smith, The Grange Event Center owners and staff, caterers Common Sense and A Matter of Taste, as well as contributors to the Summit’s “Sankofa” Video Presentation, Dr. Lucy Jackson, Neejay Canton, and Dejalys Delgado. St. Croix Foundation also extends its sincere appreciation to local private sector supporters, including Tropical Shipping, DIAM Management, Seven Seas Water Group, Global Asset Management, and TEAM Consultants, along with all other sponsors of the Foundation’s Annual Fundraiser, which supports all of the Foundation’s year-round programming, including KIDS COUNT USVI.

For more information about KIDS COUNT USVI or any resources at the 2024 KIDS COUNT Summit, please visit https://www.stxfoundation.org/kids-count-usvi/. Questions about KIDS COUNT USVI should be directed to President Deanna James of St. Croix Foundation at 340.773.9898 or DJames@stxfoundation.org.

St. Croix Foundation Issues a “Call to Action” with the Release of the 2023 KIDS COUNT© USVI Data Book

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development (SCF) is pleased to announce the release of the territory’s 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book, entitled “A CALL TO ACTION: Sounding the Alarm on Child Well-being in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” The Data Book was presented to a broad range of community stakeholders on Tuesday, December 19, 2023, at 10:00 AM AST during a Virtual Community Stakeholder Presentation open to the public.

A national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), KIDS COUNT© has evolved into one of the largest, long-standing data repositories in the United States focused on the status of children and families. A national network of nonprofits, foundations, and consortia from all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, KIDS COUNT is seen as a vital means of providing critical data about child well-being for many federal, state, and local government agencies.

During the virtual data presentation on December 19th, SCF’s KIDS COUNT Team provided an overview of the 2023 USVI Data Book to Government and Nonprofit Partners and Community Stakeholders. The Data Book comprehensively reports on the status of U.S. Virgin Islands youth in four primary domains: Family and Community, Education, Health, and Economic Well-being. Additionally, KIDS COUNT USVI includes spotlights on Opportunity Youth (ages 16-24) and Community Bright Spots, which incorporates the territory’s nonprofit sector as a vital component of the USVI’s system of supports for children.

An electronic copy of the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book is available at https://stxfoundation.info/2023KIDSCOUNTUSVIDataBook. Interested parties may also watch a recording of the Community Presentation at https://stxfoundation.info/KIDSCOUNTUSVI_2023Presentation. Additionally, physical copies of the 2023 Data Book may be requested by reaching out to the Foundation directly at jlawrence@stxfoundation.org or calling 340.773.9898.

The 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book includes data collected from the most current available data sources from the public and civic (nonprofit) sector throughout the territory, reporting on conditions across all ages of childhood. As part of St. Croix Foundation’s strategy, this year’s data book again targets “Opportunity Youth” (youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and not working). Hot Spots surrounding this age group include an increase in violent crimes

committed, from 198 in 2021 to 243 in 2022 – an increase of 22.7%. Still, youth employment and internship opportunities increased. According to the Department of Labor, its employment programs aimed at opportunity youth had increased enrollment in 2022, with 895 total participants across its three youth-focused programs, an increase from 837 participants in 2021.

For children of all ages, some of the data is urgent and consequential to the future of the U.S. Virgin Islands: 33% of children in the USVI are living in poverty. Among children five years of age and younger, poverty rates are higher across the territory: on the island of St. Croix, the poverty rate for children under five is 42%.

But there are also tangible Bright Spots throughout the territory. Civic organizations such as My Brothers Workshop, Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI, Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, St. Thomas East End Medical Center, and many more agencies such as the VI Department of Labor and Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation are transforming the lives of youth in our community each day. In fact, many agencies reported a higher demand for their services. For example, the Family Resource Center on St. Thomas served 379 minors in 2022, a large increase compared to the 222 served in 2021.

Also reported in the Data Book: In School Year 2021-2022, academic assessment scores among the USVI’s student population have declined significantly after the 2019 hurricanes and COVID-19. 95% of 7th graders were Not Proficient in Math and 84% were Not Proficient in English Language Arts. Among 11th graders this trend continues with 70.6% as Not Proficient in English Language Arts; and 95% as Not Proficient in Math. Yet, there are also Bright Spots: The graduation rate for the 2021-2022 school year was 74.4%, the highest percentage since the 2016-2017 school year.

There are also important Bright Spots for our community around health that may also serve as models for our territory and the nation. As stated in the 2023 USVI Data Book, “According to the US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, the USVI reported the highest breastfeeding percentage rate (including fully and partially breastfed infants) of all WIC State agencies at 70.9% in fiscal year 2021 (October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021). The nationally leading breastfeeding rate enabled the USVI to blunt the impacts of the national baby formula shortages experienced in 2022. The USVI WIC program’s efforts in promoting and providing resources for mothers allowed for sufficient stock of infant formula even as shortages were prevalent nationwide. The USVI WIC staff conducted targeted outreach to achieve the high levels of breastfeeding, including Zoom classes, nutrition training, providing funds for purchases directly from local farmer’s markets, and doing community outreach at public housing facilities in both districts.”

In the domain of health, a worrying Hot Spot is child maltreatment. In 2022, there was a 39% increase in cases of reported child maltreatment from 2021. This increase is particularly striking as child maltreatment had been decreasing each year from a high of 420 cases in 2019 down to 208 in 2021.

According to Dr. Saul Santiago, Principal Investigator and Data Analyst of KIDS COUNT USVI, “We have compiled, analyzed, and reported up-to-date and comprehensive information, including charts and visualizations, over the last three years on child well-being in the US Virgin Islands. The startling trends found in the extensive data sets of our USVI KIDS COUNT Data Books must serve as a call to action for all stakeholders to work together and ensure a brighter future for our territory.”

A central data point that frames all other data in the 2023 Data Book is the overarching age of the territorial population: Since 2000, the number of children in the USVI has decreased by half according to the 2020 Census. At the same time, the Virgin Islands has become the most rapidly aging population in the United States, with a median age of 45.9 years compared to the national median age of 38.8 years old. As births have decreased and young people have left the island, all age groups under 40 experienced a decline in population between 2010 and 2020, creating an alarming trend that has far-reaching implications for every aspect of the Virgin Island’s future, from workforce development to healthcare and education. The 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book also urges greater commitment to “systems-thinking” in order to foster collaboration across sectors and connect seemingly disparate data domains so that the Virgin Islands can, more effectively identify and address urgent issues through data-driven policy, programs, and services.

St. Croix Foundation President and CEO of St. Croix Foundation, Deanna James, posed several pointed questions to stakeholders, namely: “Have we, as a territory, upheld our social contracts with children over the course of time? And, most importantly, as we face the reality that our community is growing older and our child population is evaporating, who are we building for? And, what if we were heading toward a future without children?” In the 2023 Data Book’s Welcome Section, James stated that, “While (the Foundation) has tried to maintain neutrality in our storytelling and data sharing, this year’s datasets have felt like a blaring S.O.S. requiring deeper interrogation, context, and decisive action. Intentionally, the image for our 2023 cover, courtesy of David Berg, depicts a child in shadows, on a beach in Frederiksted, blowing a conch shell – symbolism meant to both sound an alarm and issue a call to order.”

St. Croix Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to the Annie E. Casey Foundation for supporting child well-being in the U.S. Virgin Islands through KIDS COUNT©, and to its many local and national partners who support this work including Seven Seas Water Group, TEAM Consultants, OCWEN Services, Tropical Shipping, and GAM Software. Special acknowledgement also goes to the Foundation’s public and civic sector Data Partners for their collaboration and commitment to children and families in the Virgin Islands. Questions about the initiative should be directed to President Deanna James of St. Croix Foundation at 340.773.9898 or DJames@stxfoundation.org.

ST. CROIX FOUNDATION TO RELEASE THE 2023 KIDS COUNT© USVI DATA BOOK “A CALL TO ACTION” ON DECEMBER 19, 2023

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development (SCF) announces the release of the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book, “A Call to Action,” on Tuesday, December 19th, 2023, at 10:00 AM AST during a Virtual Community Stakeholder Presentation.

A national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), KIDS COUNT© has evolved into one of the largest, long-standing data repositories in the United States focused on the status of children and families.  A national network of nonprofits, foundations, and consortia from all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, KIDS COUNT is seen as a vital means of providing critical data about child well-being for many federal, state, and local government agencies.

During the virtual presentation on December 19th, SCF’s KIDS COUNT USVI Team will provide an overview of the 2023 USVI Data Book to Government Partners, Nonprofit Civic Organizations, Policymakers, and Community Stakeholders. The 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book comprehensively reports on the status of U.S. Virgin Islands youth in four primary domains (Family and Community, Education, Health, and Economic Well-being).  An electronic copy of the Data Book will be distributed to all registered participants and physical copies will be available to interested parties post-release.  Parents, educators, nonprofit organizations, policy makers, and
public administrators are likely to find the information in this year’s Data Book particularly useful.

Interested parties may register for the Virtual Presentation at: https://stxfoundation.info/2023KIDSCOUNTUSVI. There is no cost to attend.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book includes data collected from the most current available data sources (including Governmental as well as Nonprofit) throughout the Territory.  One targeted population that the KIDS COUNT Team seeks to highlight is an often-overlooked subpopulation of our children – Opportunity Youth between the ages of 16-24.

According to President and CEO of St. Croix Foundation, Deanna James: “This year’s Data Book is one of the most consequential publications that St. Croix Foundation has released to date. And, all community stakeholders, public policy officials, political aspirants, and parents, are urged to take time out of their busy schedules to attend. While there are encouraging Bright Spots that are highlighted in our 2023 Data Book, alarming Hotspots demand the attention of everyone in our community who provides services to children, has children, or has uttered the phrase ‘our children are our future’.”

St. Croix Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and to its many local and national partners who support this work including Seven Seas Water Group, TEAM Consultants, OCWEN Services, Tropical Shipping, and GAM Software. Special acknowledgment also goes to the Foundation’s public and civic sector Data Partners for their collaboration and commitment to children and families in the Virgin Islands.  Questions about the initiative should be directed to President Deanna James of St. Croix Foundation at 340.773.9898 or DJames@stxfoundation.org.

CHEF TIFFANY DERRY TO HEADLINE THE ST. CROIX FOOD & WINE EXPERIENCE’S 2023 WINE IN THE WAREHOUSE EVENT

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is excited to announce that Top Chef contender Tiffany Derry will return to the U.S. Virgin Islands to serve as this year’s Wine in the Warehouse celebrity chef.  Wine in the Warehouse, one of the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience(FWE)’s most popular events, will be held at Bohlke International Aviation on Friday, December 8, 2023 from 6:00-9:00 PM.

Derry emerged into the national spotlight when she appeared on season 7 of Bravo’s Top Chef, where she finished in the top four and earned the title of “fan favorite”, going on to compete on Top Chef: All Stars. Her warm southern charm and culinary expertise led to more television appearances on shows such as Chopped, Chopped Kids, The Great American Recipe, Beat Bobby Flay, Tournament of Champions, and more. Derry currently runs two restaurants through her company T2D Concepts, including Roots Chicken Shack and Roots Southern Table, which was a 2022 James Beard Award Finalist for Best New Restaurant. According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “We are so excited to welcome this renowned chef and restaurateur back to St. Croix and into the folds of the Foundation’s family.” James continued, “Tiffany Derry is not only an exceptional chef, but she’s also a fierce advocate for social justice, equity, and food access. Her focus on celebrating her roots and bringing communities together through food makes her an inspiring collaborator for the work we do at the Foundation. In fact, each year, we have grown increasingly committed to ensuring that our fundraiser, our programming, and our partnerships, are intentionally aligned with our mission and our vision for the future of our Community. We simply couldn’t think of a more perfect celebrity chef to join us this year than Tiffany!”Tickets for the event are $150 per person and are available for purchase now at http://www.stxfoodandwine.com.

St. Croix Foundation would like to extend its deepest appreciation to  early sponsors VI Lottery, Bohlke International Aviation, CC1, Crucian Point, The Buccaneer Resort, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, Bank of St. Croix, Marshall & Sterling, and the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority. SCF also invites additional corporate and individual citizens to become event partners and sponsors. For more information on how to become a sponsor, please contact 340-773-9898 or email lcox@stxfoundation.org.

For information about tickets, events, and sponsorship visit http://www.stxfoodandwine.com or call the St. Croix Foundation office at 340-773-9898.

ST. CROIX FOOD & WINE EXPERIENCE IS BACK WITH WINE IN THE WAREHOUSE!

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is pleased to announce the return of the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience (FEW)! This beloved celebration of the cuisine of St. Croix is back for 2023 with one of the FWE’s most popular events, Wine in the Warehouse, at Bohlke International Aviation on Friday, December 8, 2023 from 6:00-9:00 PM.

Featuring delectable food from some of St. Croix’s best chefs and caterers, complemented by fine spirits from Coca Cola 1 (CC1) – all set against the sleek backdrop of live music and Bohlke International Aviation’s fleet of jets – Wine in the Warehouse is the perfect way to ring in the holidays.

According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “We are excited to bring back this beloved community event as a means of raising funds to support the Foundation’s comprehensive community development initiatives.” James continued, “St. Croix Foundation is Your Community Foundation! And, as we prepare to lead some of the most deeply impactful work in our organization’s history, the revenue generated from Wine in the Warehouse will be leveraged many times over and reinvested back into the community to advance the Foundation’s mission around territory-wide social, economic, and educational transformation.”

Tickets for the event are $150 per person and are available for purchase beginning on Friday, September 15, 2023 at http://www.stxfoodandwine.com.

St. Croix Foundation would like to extend its deepest appreciation to  early sponsors Bohlke International Aviation, CC1, and Crucian Point. SCF also invites additional corporate and individual citizens to become event partners and sponsors. For more information on how to become a sponsor, please contact 340-773-9898 or email lcox@stxfoundation.org.

For information about tickets, events, and sponsorship visit http://www.stxfoodandwine.com or call the St. Croix Foundation office at 340-773-9898.

St. Croix Foundation’s Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund Awards $18,900 in its First Official Year

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is pleased to announce that $18,900 in grants and scholarships have been awarded through the Lang-Wise STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Scholarship Fund in its inaugural grant cycles. Awards include an $8,400 grant to the St. Croix Rocketry Association and $10,500 in scholarships to five St. Croix graduates.

On Thursday, August 3rd, during a virtual presentation at St. Croix Foundation (SCF), four (4) scholarships were awarded in the first competitive cycle of the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund. The Fund was established in the fall of 2022 at St. Croix Foundation by St. Croix native and engineer, Raydiance Wise, to “pay forward” the support she received from multiple organizations when she herself was studying for her engineering degree. Recognizing that scholarships can help to cover significant costs associated with higher education (beyond tuition), this award is designed to encourage students to pursue STEM-related fields of study by offsetting costs related to travel, clothing, textbooks, and other unexpected expenses that become burdensome.

The Fund supports graduating seniors from public, private, or parochial schools on the island of St. Croix. Students who applied to the 2023 competitive scholarship cycle were required to submit transcripts, essays, and a video presentation demonstrating their knowledge of their chosen career path and the steps needed to acquire a degree. Each applicant was carefully considered by St. Croix Foundation’s Grants & Scholarships Review Committee using an equity-based framework. The following recipients were awarded scholarships between $500 and $3,000:

  • Joscelin Torres, Texas State University, Major: Physics
  • Wyatt Bracy, Northeastern University, Major: Criminal Justice/Cybersecurity
  • Una Alexander, Howard University, Major: Biology
  • Bry’Nice Berley, Nova Southeastern University, Major: Computer Science

In their applications, awardees acknowledged the rigorous coursework they would meet pursuing a STEM-related degree and demonstrated their ability to meet these challenges. Successful applicants also spoke of their desire to bring back their expertise to the U.S. Virgin Islands whether as a teacher or scientist. At the awards presentation, Joscelin Torres, a graduate of St. Croix Educational Complex and freshman at Texas State University, expressed, “I am honored to be a recipient. This scholarship brings positivity into our lives, and I aspire to do the same when I’m in a position to do so. Thank you, thank you!”

In its first official year, the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund has awarded a total of $18,900 in scholarships and grants. In December 2022, the Fund awarded a grant to the St. Croix Rocketry Association to support the first half of its 2023 programming, which includes weekly instructional workshops for junior high and high school students on St. Croix where they build and test rockets for speed and height. Students then compete in a national tournament. In 2022, students in the program took home two championship trophies and several medals. Also in 2022, the Fund reached back to a past scholarship recipient, Laurie Cedeno (graduate of St. Croix Central High School), with an opportunity to apply for an invitation-only scholarship to support her pursuit of a Nursing Degree at the University of Tampa. Now in her Junior year, Cedeno spoke of her goals to attend graduate school after receiving her Bachelor of Science degree and also expressed the importance of passion to sustain her through the challenges.

St. Croix Foundation is deeply privileged and encouraged by the growing number of funds being launched by native Virgin Islanders locally and abroad who are ‘reaching back’ to lift the banner of philanthropy in the Virgin Islands. St. Croix Foundation also wishes to extend its deepest appreciation to Donor (and Fund Advisor) Radiance Wise, Alice Wise, as well as the Foundation’s Grants & Scholarships Review Committee for their deep engagement in the grantmaking process.

For more information on the Lang-Wise STEM Scholarship Fund or to find out how to contribute, please contact St. Croix Foundation at 340-773-9898 or visit our website at www.stxfoundation.org.

St. Croix Foundation Awards $20,000 in Scholarships to Four St. Croix Graduates

ST. CROIX, U.S.V.I., July 20, 2023. St. Croix Foundation is pleased to announce that $20,000 in scholarships were awarded to four St. Croix youth on Tuesday, July 18th, during a virtual presentation at St. Croix Foundation (SCF), headquartered in Sunday Market Square. Scholarships were made possible through the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund, the St. Croix Educational Complex 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee Fund and the Foundation Scholars Fund.

Now in its sixth year, the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund is administered annually by St. Croix Foundation and Donor Junior Gaspard (a St. Croix Native) to support the academic pursuits of St. Croix high school graduates. Acutely aware of the challenges facing young students as they navigate college life, such as snowballing tuition expenses, dwindling financial aid and rigorous coursework, for the past two years, scholarships have been awarded to 2021 award recipients. Through the Williams Opportunity Fund (and $3,000 in funding from the Foundation Scholars Fund), SCF’s Grants Review Committee awarded three (3) scholarships of $5,000 each to the following recipients in demonstration of SCF’s ongoing support as students moved into their third year at their respective places of study:

  • Abigail Valery, Temple University, Major: Music Education
  • Caliyah Helliger, Howard University, Major: Biology
  • Sanaa Burke, University of Delaware, Major: Climatology/Meteorology

The St. Croix Educational Complex (SCEC) 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee Fund was established in the fall of 2022 by Anquanette Gaspard, a member of the St. Croix Educational Complex’s 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee and granddaughter of Patrick and Amelia Williams. In its inaugural scholarship cycle, the 20th Anniversary Fund awarded one $5,000 scholarship to Jayden Ferdinand, a graduate of St. Croix Educational Complex. Jayden will study Psychology at Penn State University in the fall.

The Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund was established by Junior Gaspard, a graduate of Central High School and John H. Woodson Junior High School, in honor of his grandparents. Gaspard recalls the hard work and determination embodied in his grandfather’s spirit when he moved the entire family to St. Croix from St. Vincent. This, combined with his grandmother’s resilience as she courageously contended with the loss of her eyesight, provided a road map to overcoming challenges with strength and perseverance. Upholding the spirit of the Williams Opportunity Fund, Anquanette Gaspard, sister to Junior Gaspard and granddaughter of Patrick and Amelia Williams, also recognized an opportunity to increase support for St. Croix youth and established the SCEC 20th Anniversary Fund to encourage giving back to the next generation. Anquanette Gaspard, Advisor to the Funds expressed, “The Gaspard & Williams Families are beyond proud of this year’s recipients of the Patrick & Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund. These bright young women continue to persevere and thrive in their college endeavors, and we are grateful for the opportunity to continue to lend our support. Having Jayden as the first recipient of the St. Croix Educational Complex 20th Anniversary Fund was an honor. He depicts much of what our class embodies: determination, perseverance and strength. We look forward to seeing everything he will accomplish in the future.”

Each 2023 recipient of the Williams Opportunity Fund was required to demonstrate progress by submitting a formal application that included transcripts, letters of reference, and a four-minute video presentation in which candidates were asked to speak candidly about their majors, and the obstacles they have encountered as they get nearer to graduation. Recipients were also asked to reflect on how they have changed over time, and to share any new habits/routines they have acquired that would surprise their younger “high school selves.”

In his application for the 20th Anniversary Fund, Jayden Ferdinand also submitted a brief video presentation as well as an essay, references, and transcript – all which demonstrated a passion for his field of study and the steps he expects to take to become a clinical psychologist.

To date, the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund has awarded a total of $71,000 in scholarships to 11 students who have had to overcome unprecedented difficulties throughout their high school tenure and early university education. As stated by Caliyah Helliger, rising Junior and scholarship recipient of the Patrick & Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund, “I am beyond grateful and humble to be a recipient of this scholarship for third consecutive year. The Gaspard family and St. Croix Foundation have been at my side on this journey since I left high school and it’s amazing to have that support.”

St. Croix Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to the Gaspard family and the St. Croix Educational Complex 20th Anniversary Reunion Committee for their partnership and philanthropic spirit, as well as the Foundation’s Grants & Scholarships Review Committee for its engagement and DIAM Management for its contributions to the Foundation Scholars Fund. St. Croix Foundation welcomes donations to The Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund, SCEC 20th Anniversary Fund and Foundation Scholars Fund to support additional students as they pursue their education.

For more information on how to support these special scholarship opportunities, please contact St. Croix Foundation at 340-773-9898 or visit our website at www.stxfoundation.org to learn more.

U.S. Virgin Islands “Bright Spots” in Child Well-Being include High Rates of Maternal Breastfeeding while “Hot Spots” Align with National Data Indicating Inaccessible, Unaffordable Child Care

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) – Recent national data indicates that child care in America has become “inaccessible and unaffordable,” according to the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. (Note that the U.S. Virgin Islands is not included in the National KIDS COUNT® Data Book as it draws data from the American Community Survey, which is not conducted in the territory.) The annual report also sheds light on other challenges, including those surrounding education, health, and the economy that are affecting American children. Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall.

To supplement available national data, each year the KIDS COUNT USVI team publishes a Data Book focused specifically on the USVI that reports available data aligned with the four domains of the national Data Book.

As published in the 2022 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book, there was an increase in the percentage of WIC-receiving mothers who reported breastfeeding, from 60% in 2020 to 72% in 2022. This represents the highest breastfeeding percentage of all WIC State agencies in Fiscal Year 2021, according to the US Department of Agriculture. (WIC – the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk.) While the data is specific to mothers enrolled in WIC, this high rate is a bright spot for our community. Benefits of breastfeeding include giving infants a healthier start with a stronger immune system, in contrast to a heavy reliance on formula products, which left many mothers without viable options during recent supply shortages in the 50 states.

Of course, access to early childhood education and child care options are key for working parents. According to the USVI KIDS COUNT Data Book, 112 USVI children participated in Early Head Start and another 582 students were enrolled in Head Start. Additionally, there were 102 students in public school Pre-K programs. Taken together, this accounts for 18% of children under age 5 in the USVI (there were 4,468 children under 5 in the USVI per the 2020 Census). Unfortunately, this leaves 82% of children under age 5 who are not attending affordable Pre-K nor enrolled in a licensed child care facility, a gap which is likely to leave parents facing difficult choices about care options should they need or desire to work outside of the home.

The 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book further reports that too many parents cannot secure child care that is compatible with work schedules and commutes. For example, in 2020—21, 13% percent of children under age 6 had a family member who quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care. And women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving. Even if parents can find an opening at child care near their home, they often can’t pay for it. The nation’s average cost of center-based child care for a toddler in 2021 was $10,600, one-tenth of the median income of a married couple.

In the USVI, the median cost of center-based child care was approximately $6,000 annually, according to a USVI Department of Human Services survey published in 2022. This represents 15% of the median household income in the USVI as reported from the 2020 Census. According to the national Data Book, shortcomings of the child care system disproportionately affect the financial well-being of women, single parents, parents in poverty, families of color, and immigrant families.

While the cost of care burdens families, child care workers are paid worse than 98% of professions. Median national pay for child care workers was $28,520 per year or $13.71 an hour in 2022, less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the mean annual wage for child care workers is $26,430, according to the USVI Department of Labor.

The failings of the child care market also affect the current and future health of the American economy, costing $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue, according to one study. All of these challenges put parents under tremendous stress to meet the dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured.

According to Casey, transitioning from a faltering child care system to creating a flourishing one will take new thinking and investing at the local, state, and national levels. An executive order issued by President Biden in April is aimed at expanding access, lowering costs, and raising wages. It could prove to be a helpful framework, but more is needed:

  • Federal, state, and local governments should invest more in child care. State and local governments should maximize remaining pandemic recovery act dollars to fund needed child care services and capacity. Congress should reauthorize and strengthen the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act and increase funding for public pre-kindergarten and Head Start.
  • Public and private leaders should work together to improve the infrastructure for home-based child care, beginning by lowering the barriers to entry for potential providers by increasing access to start-up and expansion capital.
  • To help young parents, Congress should expand the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which serves student parents.