Thursday, September 19, 2019

Free Tuition – Making Goals Achievable

Students engaging in group study in the Ralph Paiewonsky Library, St. Thomas Campus

The Fall 2019 semester has seen the University of the Virgin Islands welcome hundreds of new, transfer and returning students, who have decided to make UVI their school of choice, having one less thing to worry about – overwhelming tuition fees 

Convocation 2019, Albert A. Sheen Campus

The University of the Virgin Islands has now become the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) that provides comprehensive free tuition to students within its state or jurisdiction. 

“When the history books are written about this territory there will be those who will record that at the dawn of 2019 the Government of the Virgin Islands, and thus the people of the Virgin Islands, glimpsed their future in the mirror of their own reality, and decided to shape it for themselves, so that it would be a brighter future, and a more perfect reflection of their potential and dreams,” said UVI President David Hall. 

UVI President David Hall

The marked increase in enrollment over last year is shown by the figures for registration as compared with the same time last year. This hike in enrollment is credited in large part to the Free Tuition Program. Some students recorded their profound gratitude to the framers of the bill that has made them eligible for free tuition. 

The fact that I am able to receive the Free Tuition makes it possible for me to pursue my dream of becoming a registered nurse,” says Deja Primus, a freshman. “If I didn’t receive this free tuition, I would not be able to afford the costs to come to school. This is not just a blessing for me, but a blessing for my family as well.” 

On Aug. 19, all students including returning studentflocked to the campus, anxious and eager for the start of a new semester. A few of these students indicated that because of the free tuition program, they can now focus solely on their academics and not have to worry if they will be able to continue to pursue their academic goals. 

Students traversing the Albert A. Sheen Campus

“I am definitely happy to receive this assistance, not only does it remove the financial burden from my parents, I too am assured that my only responsibility is to stay focus on my academics,” said Faith Prosper, a returning sophomore. 

“It’s a relief getting an opportunity to come to university and not have to be burdened and worried by the thoughts of how I will cover the associated costs,” said Christopher Murphy, a returning junior. 
“I have three younger siblings who are in high school and without this free tuition policy, it would have been really hard for our mother to afford to send all of us to this University,” said a freshman, who chose to remain anonymous. “This is definitely one of the best things that the government has done for education in the territory. There are many students who did not imagine going to University before, but this policy makes it possible for all.” 

Introduced by Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach, who was a senator at the time, and signed by former Governor Kenneth Mapp, this program has been a door opener for individuals who are not capable of pursuing a higher education due to financial constraints. 

In preparation for the Spring 2020 semester, beginning Jan. 13, 2020interested persons are urged to apply for the Free Tuition by Oct. 15, 2019. 

For more information about the application process, contact Access and Enrollment Services at 1-877-468-6884 or visit 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

YOE Alumni Dives into National Opportunities

It is often said that, “the sky is the limit” but for Youth Ocean Explorer (YOE) students, the ocean is limitless as they continue to be successful even beyond the shores of the Virgin Islands. Maura Richardson is one such student whose demonstrated passion for marine science saw her completing a two-week training with the Diving With a Purpose (DWP) program in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Richardson at DWP 

Richardson’s active and outstanding participation in YOE in 2017 and 2018 elevated her to being the qualified, to meet the eligibility requirements of the DWP. She is the first student from St. Thomas to participate in this program. However, Howard Forbes Jr., YOE director said that this year simply marks the beginning of their participation in this annual program.

“This is a tremendous achievement for Maura as she is only 15-years-old,” Forbes said. “She has more scuba diving accolades than I have and that is incredible,” he stated. “ It is my goal to provide opportunities like these to young, aspiring marine biologists so that by the time they decide to enroll at college, they have all the necessary experience to be one step ahead of the game.”

“This year was my first time taking part in this program and it was extravagant,” Richardson said. “Taking part in this program allowed me, a little island girl, to meet new people from different parts of the world and gain new knowledge every day. “DWP is an amazing program,” Maura emphatically stated. “It is no summer camp or like any summer program, this program is a world-wide experience exposing all young minds to different cultures and religions.”

Reflecting on the sessions she participated in, Richardson said that Coral Restoration week and Archeology week both offered new information that she is now able to share with people in the Virgin Islands. “In the first week, I participated in the Coral Restoration program and many people would think that someone from an island would know all the information there is to know about corals but I actually learned a lot of new things about the same types of coral living around my island,” Richardson said. “I learned better ways to identify coral, how to clean and plant coral. Coral is needed they are more than just pretty objects, they are living organisms,” she added.

Richardson recording coral health metrics

Richardson cleaning staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis)

The second week of the program was geared toward archeology, which Richardson said revealed her liking for history. “This last week was a test on our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) skills,” she said. “We put art into history and we took history from the ocean floor.”
“This program was more than just work and studies, it was also about connecting,” Richardson said, speaking of the networking opportunities the program provided. “All of our mentors and instructors gave up their time to help us, the youth, to gain more and new knowledge for free and I appreciated that,” she said. 

Richardson interacting at DWP

“I hope that next year will be an amazing year that will bring new fresh young minds with new and valuable information and knowledge,” she said speaking of the 2020 DWP.

Richardson is an aspiring Marine Biologist. To date, she is scuba certified and has at minimum, 20 dive experiences. She is also open water and advanced open water scuba certified.

Through the kind sponsorship of Tropical Shipping and Lana Vento, she was provided scuba diving equipment to include a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and a dive computer.

Richardson using a data sheet

DWP is a leading international organization that provides education and training programs, mission leadership, and project support services for submerged heritage preservation and conservation projects worldwide with a focus on the African Diaspora.