CONTACT: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) staff@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation is pleased to announce $15,000 in scholarships awarded to three St. Croix graduates on Friday, July 23rd, at a virtual presentation at St. Croix Foundation (SCF) headquartered in Sunday Market Square. Scholarships were made possible through the fourth annual cycle for the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund and SCF’s Foundation Scholars Fund.
Three scholarships of $5,000 each were awarded through the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund and the Foundation Scholars Fund to support students who have faced and overcome inordinate challenges. This year’s scholarship recipients persevered despite extraordinary trials throughout their high school journey, including Category Five Hurricanes, a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, as well as the myriad of obstacles young people face today. Despite the trials, they also recognized that education is a pathway to achieving personal and professional success. Applicants were required to meet specific criteria that include being a high school graduate from St. Croix, maintaining a GPA of 2.0 or higher, demonstrating financial need, and more importantly, submitting personal essays and participating in a formal interview with the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee. Candidates were asked to speak to the reality of their challenges and journey to pursue their dreams. Awards were presented to the following students:
- Abigail Valery, Temple University, Major: Music
- Caliyah Helliger, Howard University, Major: Biochemistry
- Sanaa Burke, University of Delaware, Major: Climatology/Meteorology
The Patrick & Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund was established in 2018 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma by Junior Gaspard, a St. Croix native and graduate of Central High School and John H. Woodson Junior High School. Wishing to honor his grandparents, Patrick and Amelia Williams, Gaspard and his family, alongside the St. Croix Foundation launched the Fund as a vehicle to achieve long-lasting, life-changing impact on the lives of students in the St. Croix community. Gaspard, who presents awards annually to scholarship recipients, stated that “The high level of achievement displayed by our award recipients as they navigated an academic year that was largely virtual, is a testament to their character and perseverance. My family and I are excited to support them as they begin this next chapter of their personal and academic journey.”
Also in attendance at the award presentation were members of the Gaspard family who provided counsel and motivation, telling awardees to “remember you bring the Virgin Islands with you wherever you go,” “We have future leaders here that we are supporting,” “We are part of your tribe and your village. We are here invested in you, in your success”, and from a grandson of Patrick and Amelia Williams, “This is a way to share who they [my grandparents] were, with you … Amelia and Patrick would be very proud.”
To date, the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund has provided a total of $47,000 in scholarships to 11 students who have had to overcome obstacles to continue their education, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and now COVID-19. SCF is also pleased to report that all prior awardees are still pursuing their course of study and members of the Fund’s first cohort of awardees are now preparing to graduate. 2021 scholarship recipient Sanaa Burke, who hopes to shine a light on St. Croix and the Virgin Islands’ vulnerability to climate, expressed her appreciation, stating that “This scholarship will allow me to further my education while not having to extensively worry about where the funds to pay for tuition will come from. This has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders!”
According to St. Croix Foundation Program Officer, Jonathan Williams, “What we know about higher education is that it can provide students with viable pathways toward success. The reality for students in Black and Brown communities is that those opportunities often stay just out of reach. Our goal for the Williams Fund recipients is to provide them with an additional support system on their journey toward discovering their personal and professional path unencumbered. Each year as we work with students through the selection process, we are reminded of how necessary this fund remains.”
St. Croix Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to the Gaspard family for their partnership and philanthropic spirit as well as the Foundation’s Grants Review Committee for its engagement. The Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund welcomes gifts to allow for additional students to be provided the chance to pursue their education. St. Croix Foundation would also like to thank the DIAM Fund for its partnership and contributions to the Foundation Scholars Fund.
For more information about the Williams Opportunity Fund and how you can support this special scholarship opportunity and those like it for our young people, please contact St. Croix Foundation at 340-773-9898 or visit our website at www.stxfoundation.org to learn more.