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At-Risk Youths “Changing Obstacles Into Opportunities”

wes the best

I have reported on many tragic stories in the Virgin Islands, however, it’s the stories of our troubled youth that seems to surgically slice away pieces of my heart the most! According to the U.S.V.I.Kids Count Data Book for 2014, nearly 7% of St. Croix teens between the ages of 15 to 17 are not in school. That’s more one and a half times the national drop out rate of 4 %. The rate of teen deaths (15 to 19) is four times the national rate. Folks! We have to do better than that! Now I could beat up on the parents, senators,governor, or even the students themselves!

However, I will not do that! I will remain positive. What’s that you say? “Wes The Best” actually being positive? Yes! Simply because I am a new creature in Jesus Christ, and I believe in angels! My angel”s name is Ms. Resa O’Reilly! The former Department of Justice employee has developed a non-profit organization called; “Project Promise”. I recently had an interview with Resa about what can be done to address this deplorable situation involving our children in the Virgin islands. Project Promise is only in their second year. However, the positive results are mind blowing to say the least! Project promise offers two programs for at-risk youth on St.Croix. They are the “Caterpillar Project” and the “Ticket To Ride” Salt River Program. The “Caterpillar Project” takes public school students who are 10 or 11 years old and tracks and monitors them all the way to college!

Wow! Could you imagine if every public school student could be in the “Caterpillar Project”? I asked Resa why it’s called the “Caterpillar Project”? She said; ” I see our children bloom into a human success story”. The analogy of a caterpillar blooming into a beautiful butterfly! Wait, what? That’s truly amazing!” Next, Project Promise offers the “Ticket To Ride” Salt River Bat Program. This environmentally historic program ia 3 point phase program for every 6th grade student in the St.Croix public school system! National Park
Services Director Joel Tutein is in charge of the operation. This is no surprise to me, since Joel has always been an angel also in our community! These students will learn everything about our geographical and ecological system surrounding the Salt River area of St.Croix.

The students even end up making arts and crafts Taino Indian style as well. I asked Ms. O’Reilly if she is getting support from the Federal and local governments. Resa says she is getting help, however, we can all do better! I urge everyone to pressure the senators and businesses to do what they can! Put it this way folks! It’s either programs like “Project Promise”, or a free ticket to the Youth Rehabilitaion Center, or even worse, Golden Grove Prison! If you would like to get involved, please contact Ms. Resa O’Reilly at telephone number (340) 244-3242….
The Project Promise website is
Well done Ms. O’Reilly! When Resa goes to heaven she will have her wings waiting! God will say to her; “Well done my
true and faithful daughter! Well done!

If you have an Apple device, be sure to download the free Virgin Islands Free Press app in the Apple Store!



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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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