At VIFreep Breaking News Education News National News Puerto Rico News St. Croix News St. John News St. Thomas News

State University of New York Offers In-State Rate Tuition To Students From The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

State University of New York Offers In-State Rate Tuition To Students From The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

[ad name=”HTML-68″]

NEW YORK — The State University of New York will offer in-state tuition to students from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as requested earlier this month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

SUNY trustees, in a special meeting Friday, unanimously approved a resolution amending the residency requirement for students attending or planning to attend any of the state-operated public institutions for the 2017-18 academic year.

“When called upon, SUNY acts — and acts quickly,” said H. Carl McCall, chairman of the 18-member SUNY board, who noted the “historical relationship” that New York has with the islands.

McCall led the meeting from SUNY’s Global Center in Manhattan, with videoconferencing from Albany and other locations to accommodate trustees on short notice.

 Typically, students must establish residency in the state for at least one year before enrolling in classes at one of the SUNY colleges or universities.
The move reduces tuition by about $10,000 for current and new students hailing from those U.S. territories affected by hurricanes Maria and Irma last month.
SUNY officials could decide to extend the resolution when it expires.
“It’s going to be a long road to recovery,” said Assemb. Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx), who attended the meeting in Manhattan. “So many families saw everything they have and everything they know just vanish.”

Crespo’s family is from Puerto Rico and his mother still lives there, he said.

Long Island’s SUNY schools are Farmingdale State College, Stony Brook University and SUNY Old Westbury. Officials at Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College, while not bound by the resolution, said they likely will honor it.

The City University of New York is expected to adopt a similar proposal.

Officials at the University of Central Florida (UCF) recently acted to offer in-state tuition to residents of those U.S. territories, and the Connecticut state system is expected to take the same action, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said.

Additionally, the New Jersey City University (NJCU) is offering $2,000 in free tuition to students from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Cuomo this week called on the public college systems — SUNY and CUNY — to take the action, saying it would “alleviate a huge burden for these families as they try to repair and rebuild their lives.”

Officials with the governor’s office said 1.1 million Puerto Ricans live in New York.

At VIFreep Breaking News Business News Caribbean News Education News Humanitarian News Puerto Rico News St. Croix News St. John News St. Thomas News

Students In The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Qualify For Discounted Tuition At New Jersey University Because Of Irma and Maria

Students In The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Qualify For Discounted Tuition At New Jersey University Because Of Irma and Maria

[ad name=”HTML-68″]

NEWARK — College students in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico whose studies have been halted by the recent hurricanes are being offered an educational lifeline by New Jersey City University, according to New Jersey dot com.

The state college in Jersey City is offering those students tuition-free study this semester and a chance to continue attending NJCU free in the spring with  scholarship funds. NJCU also will provide students with a housing scholarship of $2,000 per semester.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are struggling to recover after they were slammed by hurricanes Maria and Irma last month. Much of Puerto Rico, St. Croix and St. John are still without power.

“The NJCU community is supplementing its efforts to provide material resources to those in need by extending to students in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands the opportunity to move forward with their higher education and prepare for careers that will help to rebuild their lives and their homelands,” NJCU President Sue Henderson said.

To read more:

At VIFreep Breaking News Community Affairs Education News Health News Humanitarian News St. Thomas News

Young Teacher With Amnesia Like Jason Bourne Character Disappeared On St. Thomas Last Month And Hasn’t Been Found After Hurricane Maria

Young Teacher With Amnesia Like Jason Bourne Character Disappeared On St. Thomas Last Month And Hasn't Been Found After Hurricane Maria


CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A young schoolteacher with a rare form of amnesia is feared dead after she disappeared in St. Thomas last month and remains missing to this day.

Hannah Upp was last seen leaving her apartment on St. Thomas about 8 a.m. on Sept. 14. Hurricane Irma battered St. Thomas and St. John on Sept. 6.

Her car was later found in a parking lot at Sapphire Beach, where locals often go to swim, and her sandals, sarong and dress were found on the beach, her colleagues said.

Upp has a rare form of amnesia called dissociative fugue—best known as the medical condition that affected the character Jason Bourne—which can cause people to forget who they are for days or months at a time.

The 32-year-old went missing in similar circumstances twice before. Upp went for a run in Manhattan in 2008 and disappeared for almost three weeks before she was found floating in the water off the southern point of the island, with no memory of the preceding weeks. She disappeared again for about two days in 2013 in Maryland, again telling police after she was found that she had no memory of where she had been or what she had done while she was missing.

“Last night we had six hours of heavy, heavy rain and winds, so I’m worried that she was hiding out somewhere that wasn’t safe,” Maggie Guzman, a friend and fellow teacher, told Newsweek prior to Hurricane Maria. “There’s a lot of things to worry about. But my hope is that she found somewhere safe to hide.”

The search for Upp has been complicated and slowed by the hurricane and by poor cellphone service on the island.

Upp’s colleagues filed a police report and the U.S. Coast Guard searched the ocean, but the Coast Guard had to call off the search as Hurricane Maria approached the island, according to Michael Bornn, the head of school at Virgin Islands Montessori School.

“We’re ducking between Category 5 hurricanes,” says Bornn, who described Upp as an energetic and loving teacher who taught three- to five-year-old children in both English and Spanish. “It’s hard to find her in the best of situations, and it’s even harder now with the hurricane chaos.”

Guzman first noticed Upp was missing when she didn’t show up at school—where Guzman and other teachers were working to rebuild. Guzman called Upp’s roommates and friends but nobody had seen her, and Upp didn’t answer her phone.

“She may be confused and disoriented or not know who she is. Remember her face and look out for her,” Guzman wrote in a post on the Facebook group “What’s Going on St. Thomas,” which storm survivors have used to exchange information and search for missing people. Guzman later posted a rumor that Upp was sighted at a bar called Rum Hut—wearing a dirty tank top and a bandage on her arm—in an attempt to find out whether anyone else had seen her there. (Another resident posted that the woman in the tank top was a friend and not Upp.)

Upp called her mother Tuesday after a staff meeting at Virgin Islands Montessori School and said she was safe and planned to stay on the island. “According to her mother, she sounded coherent,” Bornn, the head of school, told Newsweek, adding that she left a note for friends saying she was going for a swim at Sapphire Beach and would then go to school.

Virgin Islands Police Commissioner Delroy Richards Sr. said in mid-September the department has received no new information about her disappearance.

Upp was last seen on the morning of Sept. 14 leaving her home, and this is the longest period that she has been missing. The next day, a construction crew at Sapphire Beach found Upp’s car keys, clothing and sandals by the beach bar. Her car was also located at Sapphire with her purse, phone, wallet and ID inside.

Friends organized a search party for Upp in the area and were desperate to find her before Hurricane Maria hit. But three weeks after she was last seen, she remains missing.

Twice before, Upp has disappeared suddenly, and it’s believed she may suffer from an extremely rare form of amnesia known as dissociative fugue. Individuals in such a fugue state are able to perform the normal functions of life but are unable to remember any personal details and may be unsure of who they are. Sufferers also frequently travel with no clear destination.

“We have reason to believe that she has entered a dissociative fugue state,” friend and fellow Montessori school teacher Maggie Guzman said. “She may be high-functioning, and if she’s found, she should immediately be brought to a hospital or the police should be called because she may resist.”

Upp’s colleagues and friends have hung paper fliers around the island and have checked the hospital and shelters.

When Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas it devastated the island tearing the roof off the hospital and destroying many buildings and killing at least four people.

Stressful situations can trigger the symptoms of dissociative amnesia, which include “difficulty remembering important information about one’s self,” and can last from minutes to years, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When Upp was missing in 2008, police reports said she spent a lot of time in places like Riverside Drive, which overlooks the Hudson River, according to The New York Times.

After she was found, she said her attraction to the area made sense—an answer that may also shed light on why she found her way to Sapphire Beach almost 10 years later. “Not only is it one of my favorite places, but there’s something soothing about the sound of water and just not feeling trapped in the concrete jungle,” she told the newspaper in 2009.

Upp’s friends worry she drowned at Sapphire Beach, was the victim of a crime or was once again struck by amnesia and is now wandering around the island, confused and hiding. Guzman says: “We’re all hoping it’s the third thing, because that’s more likely that she’s OK.”

At VIFreep Community Affairs Education News Government House News Health News Humanitarian News St. Croix News St. John News St. Thomas News

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: People With Special Needs Should Get Special Consideration During Emergency Conditions

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: People With Special Needs Should Get Special Consideration During Emergency Conditions

[ad name=”HTML-68″]



Dear Honorable Governor Mapp,

It is with much gratitude and appreciation for your continued support of our most vulnerable population that I am taking this moment to thank you and your staff for the remarkable job of airlifting the ill and injured off of St. Thomas.  Additionally, “Thank You” for announcing to the public that a special needs shelter was available prior to the arrival of the hurricane.  What many cannot see nor hear is the continuous transport of individuals from St. Thomas to St. Croix from early morning until late into the evening over the last several days. It is overwhelming to hear and watch these massive choppers and military aircraft arrive and take off from St. Croix’s airport knowing that were it not for quick thinking and organization we may have lost more lives during and after Hurricane Irma.

We cannot please everyone. People will always have opposing opinions. Unfortunately, that is simply the way some human beings choose to behave. We can, however, always choose to do our very best given the responsibilities of our profession and as citizens of the United States Virgin Islands.  I commend you, Governor, and I commend your staff for your organization and efforts. On behalf of our most vulnerable population and their families here in the Virgin Islands, I am in gratitude for the continued efforts being made to provide help and bring comfort to them.

Please extend a thank you to United States military personnel on our soil tirelessly working and extending care. Extend a heartfelt thank you to the countless medical professionals and government employees working around the clock to save lives and to the quietly caring volunteers extending help to their neighbors and visitors still on our shores. The ultimate “Thank You” goes to God for bringing us through the worst of the storm with far less casualties and destruction of property across the Virgin Islands than expected. My sincere empathy is extended to those who have suffered lost of family, friends and those who have endured property damage.

Please remind our St. Thomian and St. Johnian brothers and sisters that we, their fellow Virgin Islanders on St. Croix, will continue to keep them in our prayers and extend a helping hand when needed. May the mercy and promises of God quiet their hearts, bring peace when they are most overwhelmed, and may God hear their prayers. Thank you Governor and may God continue to bless the United States Virgin Islands and the United States of America.

Good Job!


Stephanie Emelia Barnes

Founder & President, Virgin Islands Autism Network

CEO, ABC Behavioral Consulting, LLC.

At VIFreep Breaking News Caribbean News Community Affairs Education News Government House News Puerto Rico News St. Croix News St. John News St. Thomas News

Puerto Rico’s Education Secretary Says School Enrollment Is Down Eleven Percent … Mapp And Local Education Officials Won’t Say If Territory Has Suffered A Comparable Loss

Puerto Rico's Education Secretary Says School Enrollment Is Down Eleven Percent ... Mapp And Local Education Officials Won't Say If Territory Has Suffered A Comparable Loss

[ad name=”HTML-68″]

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico’s education secretary says enrollment at the U.S. commonwealth’s public schools this year has dropped by 11 per cent so far compared with the previous year.

Julia Keleher said Thursday that some 317,000 students have enrolled for the new school year, roughly 40,000 less than those registered in May.

Classes are scheduled to start today and officials expect to have formal enrollment numbers later today.

Puerto Rico closed 167 schools over the summer as families continue to migrate to the U.S. mainland to flee a deepening economic crisis. Overall school enrolment has dropped 42 per cent in the past three decades.

Keleher also said she plans to serve as principal of three schools to implement new programs that she might extend to other schools.

V.I. Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum did not return repeated requests for comment on this story.

At VIFreep Breaking News Caribbean News Community Affairs Education News Puerto Rico News St. Croix News St. John News Territorial Affairs

Virgin Islanders Invited To Watch Total Solar Eclipse From UVI Sports and Fitness Center On St. Thomas Today

Virgin Islanders Invited To Watch Total Solar Eclipse From UVI Sports and Fitness Center On St. Thomas Today

ECLIPSE O’ CANE? It hasn’t happened in over 50 years but today’s total solar eclipse could coincide with a hurricane or tropical storm. Separate systems out in the Atlantic Ocean moving west or west-northwest, possibly putting at least one of them right in the path of totality of the eclipse. According to The Weather Channel, the westernmost one, Tropical Storm Harvey, has a chance of becoming a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea. 

[ad name=”HTML-68″]
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The territory will experience a solar eclipse during the mid-afternoon today.

The Moon will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun, blocking out about 90 percent of the Sun’s surface as viewed from the Virgin Islands.

The University of the Virgin Islands’ Etelman Observatory and UVI’s Physics program students and faculty will host an eclipse-viewing event from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, at UVI’s Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas Campus. UVI has been designated as the only official NASA viewing location for the eclipse in the Caribbean.

The University invites the public to view the “Great American Solar Eclipse,” which it has been called by popular media outlets. This total eclipse of the Sun, in which the Moon blocks 100 percent of the Sun, will be visible from a 70-mile wide path that stretches all across America, beginning in Lincoln City Oregon, crossing the U.S. mainland throughout the day and last being visible on the continent in Charleston, South Carolina. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible to such a large portion of the U.S. was 100 years ago.

While the Virgin Islands are not within this so-called “path of totality,” the territory is quite close. The eclipse passes about 150 miles northeast of St. Thomas.  The territory will see most of the Sun blocked by the Moon. The last time a solar eclipse passed so close to the USVI was 19 years ago.
“It is extremely important to be aware that looking directly at the Sun without eye protection, even when it is partially eclipsed, can damage your eyesight,” said Dr. David Morris, assistant professor of Physics and Etelman Observatory director at UVI.  “Looking at the Sun through binoculars or a telescope, even during an eclipse, will cause permanent eye damage, and possibly blindness.”

“We strongly encourage you to visit UVI to view this awe inspiring event,” Dr. Morris said. Telescopes will be set up on the UVI soccer field, which is behind the Sports and Fitness Center. UVI Physics and Astronomy faculty and students will be on-hand with proper eye-protection to make viewing the eclipse a safe and exciting experience for all.
There will be a limited supply of solar-eclipse glasses as well as special solar-telescopes designed for viewing the Sun safely, and other telescopes equipped with special protective filters to allow safe viewing of the Sun.

“We will also be demonstrating the use of pinhole cameras and telescope-projection techniques for viewing the eclipse indirectly, by casting an image of the Sun on a screen rather than viewing it directly with your eye,” Dr. Morris said.

The University will send members of the Etelman Observatory Solar Physics research team and UVI physics students to the path of totality in Charleston, South Carolina. These researchers will be live-streaming video of the moment of total-eclipse from Charleston  at 2:47 p.m. Visitors to UVI will be able to watch the total eclipse by video on a large-screen set up in the UVI Sports and Fitness Center,  weather permitting in Charleston.

In St. Thomas, the eclipse will begin at 2:14 p.m., when the Moon will begin to block out the edge of the Sun. The eclipse will reach its maximum in the USVI when about 90 percent of the Sun will be blocked out at 3:36 p.m., and from that point, the Sun will become less and less obscured until the Moon completely unblocks the Sun, at 4:47 p.m.

If you have any questions or would like further information please contact Professor David Morris at Also, please visit NASA’s Official Eclipse viewing location map for more information about the viewing at the Sports and Fitness Center and other events taking place around the country.

At VIFreep Breaking News Education News St. Croix News St. John News St. Thomas News Territorial Affairs

MAPP: Territory’s Schools Won’t Be ‘Perfect’ When They Open In Three Weeks … But They Will Be Clean

MAPP: Territory's Schools Won't Be 'Perfect' When They Open In Three Weeks ... But They Will Be Clean

BIG ORDER: Gov. Kenneth Mapp (middle) and Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter (right) listen as Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum explains why the territory’s schools won’t be in “perfect order” when they open in three weeks.

[ad name=”HTML-68″]

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The territory’s schools won’t be ready when they open in three weeks — but they will be clean.

That was the word Gov. Kenneth Mapp announced at a press conference with V.I. Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum on Wednesday.

Education officials distributed a timeline of when each school on St. Thomas and St. Croix should be ready and how much it is expected to cost to fix them.

The Legislature has appropriated $1.75 million for summer maintenance of the territory’s schools, but that money has yet to be released by the Office of Management and Budget.

Two major credit ratings firms based in the United States have said this week that the territory is using all available government money to continue to make payroll for government employees every two weeks — and downgraded the Virgin Islands bonds as a result.

McCollum assured parents, students and teachers that the territory’s public schools will be prepared for the next school year beginning September 5.
She acknowledged that some physical repairs will be ongoing, but that the basic maintenance and repairs will have been completed by then.
Education officials were expecting to spend $753,631 on St. Thomas schools and $866,100 on St. Croix schools during the summer maintenance period.
Mapp said that at least $14.6 million is available for school maintenance and of that amount $7 million is earmarked for capital improvement projects already underway.
“We’re not going to find the schools in perfect order when the children arrive on September 5,” he said. “We’re going to find the schools clean and ready to be inhabited by the children and professional staff.”
Mapp and Lt. Governor Osbert Potter have invited members of the Board of Education, the Legislature and media to accompany them on a tour of all school properties planned for August 28.




At VIFreep Breaking News Education News Government House News Health News St. Croix News St. John News St. Thomas News Territorial Affairs

Mapp: V.I. Children Of Low-Income Parents Are Now Eligible For Increased Medical Insurance Benefits From The Federal Government

Mapp: V.I. Children Of Low-Income Parents Are Now Eligible For Increased Medical Insurance Benefits From The Federal Government
[ad name=”HTML-68″]

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Children of low-income parents will be able to apply for increased medical insurance benefits from the federal government starting on Oct. 1.

The V.I. Department of Education will play a key role in helping the local government to identify children who will be eligible for federally subsidized healthcare coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers 91.5 percent of healthcare costs for eligible children from birth through 19 years, Government House said.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp said at a press conference on Wednesday that the United States Department of Health and Human Services has accepted the Virgin Islands government’s petition to transfer coverage of eligible children from the Medical Assistance Program (MAP) to CHIP.

Insurance coverage for children now on the family plans of income eligible government employees also will be transferred to CHIP under the new arrangement.

The school system will begin determining which students are members of qualifying families, as part of the overall strategy to reduce the fiscal burden of healthcare on local resources by making maximum use of federal programs.

Earlier this year, Mapp announced that the Department of Health and Human Services had approved his administration’s request to increase the federal poverty level for the territory from $6,500 to $11,800, which made 19,000 more members of Virgin Islands households eligible for federally subsidized healthcare programs.

The governor said that Education and Human Services will attempt to increase registration in advance of the coming school year.

“Folks in the community that will be applying for SNAP or any other public assistance in Human Services will only have a one-stop qualification process,” Mapp said.

Government House said that it is a significant expansion of health coverage, and for cost savings by the local government with trained staff being added to the hospitals and all federal assistance program intake points used to identify and enroll eligible residents at the earliest possible opportunity.

“By increasing our use of federal dollars to ease the burden of healthcare costs on our people, our hospitals, and our government, we are pursuing our long term strategy to improve our quality of life, and eventually to eliminate our persistent fiscal imbalance,” he said.