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Minnesota Airline With Routes To The Virgin Islands Gives Back To Local Youths

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MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Timberwolves and Sun Country Airlines® have teamed with the Emerald Gems Foundation to provide six selected high school juniors from St. Thomas the opportunity for an all expenses paid trip to the Twin Cities from Sunday, February 28 to Sunday, March 6.

The Emerald Gems Foundation, Inc., founded by Timberwolves General Manager Milt Newton and has wife Shalaun Newton, enhances the lives of the youths of St. Thomas by providing positive experiences and learning opportunities utilizing basketball as a means.

“We are extremely excited to welcome these deserving youth, and the Virgin Islands contingency to Minnesota, and look forward to giving them a positive, fun and educational experience that will last a lifetime,” said Timberwolves General Manager and Emerald Gems co-founder, Milt Newton. “Shalaun and I want to thank Sun Country Airlines for their generosity in helping make the trip a reality, and also thank the Timberwolves organization for being so supportive of Shalaun and me as we have founded and launched Emerald Gems over the past year.”

In 2016, the Emerald Gems Foundation, Inc. launched a new program called Education & Basketball Enrichment. The platform provides an opportunity for U.S Virgin Islands public high school students in their junior year who play basketball for their school and/or a league to travel to the Twin Cities to learn about behind-the-scenes aspects of the Timberwolves organization, in addition to exploring other businesses. The students will attend two Timberwolves games, Taste of the Timberwolves, and participate in other educational and entertainment outings throughout the week.

Students were selected based upon their academic, work and/or community service achievements. To be eligible to apply for the trip, students needed to be a resident of Virgin Islands, a high school junior in a Virgin Islands public high school, play basketball for their school and/or basketball league and hold a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5. Each student submitted an application, along with an essay and two letters of recommendation to be considered.

“Sun Country Airlines is proud of the community relationships we have in in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and all of our exciting destination markets,” said Eric Curry, VP of Sales and Customer Experience at Sun Country Airlines. “Bringing the two together in this partnership with the Timberwolves and Emerald Gems was an easy decision. As the Hometown Airline, it is our pleasure to bring some of the best and brightest students from the Virgin Islands to Minnesota. We hope they return home to their sunny shores enriched and inspired to continue with their exemplary education.”

The Newton’s ultimate vision of the foundation is to start with basketball camps and gradually grow the foundation to include other charitable programs and contributions. Emerald Gems is the name that was chosen for the foundation due to its significance. The U.S. Virgin Islands are said to be the “Emeralds of the Sea” and Gems represents how Newton views the youth.

About Emerald Gems Foundation

Emerald Gems Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that enhances the lives of the youths of the U.S. Virgin Islands by providing positive experiences and learning opportunities utilizing basketball as a means. For information can be found by visiting

About Sun Country Airlines

Sun Country Airlines (MN Airlines, LLC d.b.a. Sun Country Airlines) is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. The award-winning airline, which flies to popular destinations across the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, has earned a reputation for offering world-class service at an affordable price.

The airline offers vacation packages through Sun Country Vacations, a program that allows travelers to book airfare, hotel, rental cars, tour attractions and more in a single, convenient transaction.

The Hometown Airline also offers Sun Country Charters—taking your private charter group virtually anywhere with a commitment to reliable and customized service. For more information, visit

Sun Country, Sun Country Airlines, Sun Country Vacations, the Compass logo and Ufly are registered trademarks of MN Airlines, LLC d/b/a Sun Country Airlines.

milt newton

        St. Thomas native Milt Newton

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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