Tuesday, May 5, 2020

UVI’s Alternative Spring Break: A Week of Fun, Crafts, and Skills

ASB participants take group photo after beach day

Wearing brightly colored neon orange t-shirts; adding a flair of pop and color to the theatrical setting of the UVI little theater, student participants of the 4th annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program closed off a week of educational, exhilarating, and fun filled activities at a presentation and award ceremony on Friday, March 13, 2020. 

The one-week program, slated with several activities and events centered around the “Learn, Serve, Grow” theme, allowed students to learn something they may have never tried before, to serve others that were in need, and grow from the experience ASB offered. 

This year, the Division of Student Affairs offered four unique programs for students to participate in while allowing them to live on campus for one week, giving them the opportunity to indulge in every event or activity they so desired. The four programs were titled: Culture Shock; Lights, Camera, Action; ReGRO VI, and Helping Hands 

Culture Shock 

Student participants in "Culture Shock" create moko jumbie dolls

 Students in “Culture Shock” learned the arts of carnival costume making, storytelling and other cultural crafts. This program was created to add a much needed spark to Virgin Islands culture by empowering young adults as culture bearers.  The emphasis of culture shock was for students to add their own personal flair to their newly learned craft. In collaboration with the Department of Education’s Division of Cultural Education, students created moko jumbie dolls and carnival headpieces led by Waldemar Brodhurst and Anthony Felix. Five young women (Sherkquan Henry, Clinisha Todman, Quiannah Potter, Fritzlanda Andre, and Serita Somersalle) strut the little theater stage showing off beautifully designed carnival costume hats, each having a unique distinction to it.  

Deanna Jeffers shows off carnival hat and moko jumbie doll

Quiannah Potter participated in the Culture Shock program and was overwhelmed with how much she had learned. “Aside from the many very fun social activities we had every night, what I really enjoyed the most was being able to step outside of my comfort zone,” said Potter. “I had the ability to express myself through creating various types of crafts which was something I wouldn’t be able to do. Potter also modeled the cultural headpieces, which was a first for her. “Through modeling, I felt a confidence I never felt before,” said Potter. “ASB provided me with fun, new friendships, laughter and growth. 

“Modeling the headpieces on stage was intimidating but it was a way to show the accomplishment of the headpieces and the growth of my confidence,” said Clinisha Todman. Overall the program was truly enlightening, and I highly recommend that every college student gives the program a chance in the future.” 
(Left to Right) Clinisha Todman, Serita Somersalle, and Quiannah Potter group photos while wearing carnival hats

Nicholas Durgadeen shares storytelling experience
Remaining in the lines of culture, four young talented storytellers (Torhera Durand, Madelin Yousef, Empress-Addaliah Potter, and Tekettay Ludvig) brought old fables and Anansi stories to life with their acting through humor, impersonations, facial expressions, jumping, falling, crawling and more.   It was evident that their performance met UVI standards. The audience showed their appreciation for the carnival pieces and storytelling with roaring applauses and cheers.  In addition to storytelling, students practiced creative writing and learned the Dynamics of Caribbean folklore storytelling under the guidance of Khalarni Rivers. Rivers is a   UVI Alumna and currently serves as community outreach manager for the Division of Cultural Education at the Department of Education. “Having the opportunity to work with such an eager group of students was like a breath of fresh air. Their willingness to learn made each session that much more rewarding for them and myself,” said Rivers 

“During my session at storytelling I was taught to appreciate every little thing that you have because it might end up being ALL that you have,” said Tekettay Ludvig. 

Tekettay Ludvig acts out story

Torhera Durand presents story
 "Growing up in St. Croix, my culture has always been a huge part of my identity. I've danced quadrille and maypole, but story telling was something that I never got to experience first hand, said Torhera Durand," SGA Vice President. "So when I heard about the storytelling I immediately jumped at the opportunity. The experience in this group went way beyond just learning old folk stories," Durand added. "We explored our own identities, how to perform and bring life to the stories that were telling, and embraced all the things that made each of us and our life experiences different."


Imani Daniel of STRT helps students build garden boxes

ReGRO VI got their hands dirty, in a positive way of course by building gardens for persons and communities still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Students in ReGRO VI worked with the St. Thomas Recovery Team (STRT), a non-profit organization that was established after the hurricanes whose focus is to rebuild homes and community gardens. Imani Daniel and Tyrone Webster of STRT exposed students to gardening and building one’s own community garden. The gardening project took place on an open field in Bordeaux next to a playground. The three-day project involved lifting lumber, clearing the land, building garden boxes, planting seeds and lawn beautification. Student participants described their overall experience of the ReGRO VI project.  

Student create garden boxes

“It was fun, it was really nice working together with my team. The fun part about it is that we actually got to help out a community. Overall, the experience was worth it,” said Brandon Chambers. 

Students planting plants in garden boxes

“I really enjoyed it because at the end of the day you can actually see that youre giving back to those that actually need it [help or assistance],” said Ahriya Fearon. 

Students shoveling soil into garden boxes

Tehron Rabsatt worked with the STRT prior to joining the ReGRO VI group. “Having all these people come out and help us create a garden in a place where we can give to sustain ourselves as an island and be more independent was a really nice experience  and being able to give back to the community was nice as well,” said Teh’Rhon Rabsatt. 

Lights, Camera, Action 

Amos Francis operates stage lights
The Lights, Camera, Action crew experimented with production equipment and received introductory lessons on how to use stage lights, cameras; in which they conducted video recording and photography; tested the use of mics, interviewed students, created content and practiced how to edit videos. Tevin Lettsome, a student who is interested in photography and film, said “The Lights, Camera, Action, program gave me a reason to love photography and film even more. The program has opened up my eyes to the hard work that photographers, filmmakers and light operators put in on a daily basis,” said Lettsome. 
Joraine Russell operates stage lights

Joraine Russell who learned how to use stage lights said, “The lights are especially bright, the lights are especially hot, but lights are what can make any story or presentation spectacular.”  

Students take group photo on boat

In addition to the daily sessions each program offered, social activities were scheduled every night as well. On Tuesday, the campus shuttle ventured a little quite beyond the hills and roads that lead to the UVI Library, the Administration Building and the CA Building and rode all the way to the country side of the island to Caribbean Cinemas for a movie night. The new thriller Invisible Man was the choice for some while a few others watched the action packed Bad Boys II.  

“Invisible man had me at the edge of my seat, questioning whats going to happened next,” said Dalissa Lettsome. “The suspense was great.” 

“Bad boys included unexpected situations that were eye opening,” said Deanna Jeffers. 

Ahriyah Fearon snorkels in the water
On Wednesday, Game Night brought out everyone’s inner child with classical games like musical chairs; red light, green light, 123hide and seek, UNO, and dominoes. Students described it as being fun and interactive. 

On Thursday, ASB, set sail on the Castaway Girl boat excursions and had a boat party while enjoying
good food and music. During the excursion, students got the chance to snorkel and visit Buck Island and Water Island. “The boat ride was such an awesome experience,” said Amos Francis. “Being able to explore the beautiful Caribbean ocean and islands helped to relieve some of the stress college brings along.” 

Students enjoy their time on boat excusion

Students snorkel in the ocean 

Helping Hands 

(Left to Right) Cedricia Jeffer, Adina Browne, and Kenique Liburd create homemade hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes

     ASB could not close off the week without offering some kind of community service and that is just what the “Helping Hands” group did. Waking up early morning with smiles on their faces and trash bags in hand, Helping Hands visited each residence hall asking students if they had any clothing that they would be willing to donate. They successfully collected six large garbage bags of clothing and donated them to the Salvation Army and Humane Society.  
In light of the COVID-19 virus, Helping Hands created homemade hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes with on hand ingredients that include rubbing alcohol, aloe vera, vinegar, peroxide and scented oils with assistance from Dahlia Stridiron-Felix, Mary Meyers, Jenifer Palmer-Crawford and the rest of the Students Affairs team. These finished products were donated to the UVI cafeteria. 

Students make homemade hand sanitizers

After recapping a week full of events and activities at the presentation and award ceremony, Dean Verna Rivers walked unto the little theater stage full of excitement and joy, extending heartfelt congratulations, compliments and well wishes to the students who participated and to those who made Alternative Spring Break possible. “I feel so proud you guys. I’m really overwhelmed with emotion, said Verna Rivers, dean of Students Affairs for the St. Thomas campus.  

Dean of Students Verna Rivers

“I felt like this program afforded you the opportunity to reflect, to feel yourself, for you to experience something that you were passionate about. It helped you to develop and hone your skills,” said Dean Rivers. Students quickly agreed with her statement with a round of applauses and cheers.  

She added, “I want ASB to continue to grow, to be a student lead and student empowered organization.” 

She then called on Nyalia Callwood and presented her with a gift bag and thanked her for all her hard
Deans Rivers hands Nyalia Callwood gift bag
work. Nyalia served as the program coordinator for the Alternative Spring Break and played a major role in making thevent a huge success. “ASB probably would not have happened if it wasn’t for Nyalia,” said Dean Rivers. 

“This program was insane,” said Nyalia. The mix of social, service and creative activities made for an all around transformative experience. So many students joined and had fun,” added Nyalia. “I’m happy I was able to give them a chance to get closer to their passions and community. Next year will definitely be greater. I anticipate more students, better programs and some travel opportunities during Spring break and other breaks.” 

“I enjoyed the overall experience. It helped to open my eyes to the things we have in our community such as the making of moko jumbie dolls and how good storytelling with the correct amount of dramatic flair and energy can impact people, said K’Dani Paul. “I learned how to use many different types of equipment and how to operate different kinds of cameras.” 

“What I enjoyed the most about Alternative Spring Break is that it has given me the opportunity to utilize my talents through creating crafts, exploring ideas and interacting with other students,” said Deanna Jeffers.  “This is my third year participating and each year gets better.” 

The Alternative Spring Break program created a new perspective for students at the University of the Virgin Islands. This program allowed students to temporarily forget about the worries and stress of college and their daily lives and allowed them to unravel their inner potential and abilities through creating, working, servicing, and expression whether it is through culture, community service, social activities or content creation Although, UVI will now transition to online classes for the remainder of the Spring semester ASB has allowed students to re-energize and re-focus because it not was not only about having fun, students were able to “serve, learn, and most importantly grow.”