Judi Shimel
More than 200 people have signed up for evening classes being offered this spring through the St. John Beacon School program at the Julius E. Sprauve School.
The 22 current offerings, some academically oriented and others just for fun, cover a lot of ground. There's adult literacy, aerobics, carpentry, ceramics, basic and advanced computer science, drawing, Epic Parenting, quadrille dancing, quilting, sewing, Spanish, stained-glass art, steelband and straw art.
And then there are the "alphabet" offerings — CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), ESL (English as a second language), GED (general equivalency diploma studies), PET (Potential Employment Training), TOP (Teen Outreach Program) and VIRCD (V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled). Perhaps most important of all are the afterschool tutorial programs for students.
The classes are offered by Beacon Schools of the Virgin Islands, a not-for-profit organization. All Beacon classes are free and open to the public. It's still possible to register for spring classes that aren't already filled.
Program co-director Madeline Sewer says the Beacon offerings have proven popular among old and young alike. The aerobics class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays has single mothers in their 20s through retirees 60 and over, she said.
Registration for the well-attended quilting class has led to greater participation in the Beacon sewing class. The basic and advanced computer classes are full, Sewer said, even though Internet connection is yet to come. The after-school tutorials for grades 6 through 9 continue to draw 35 to 40 students a semester.
The Beacon Schools program was adopted in the territory in 1997 with the primary objective of providing supervised after-school activities for children of working parents. The program offers educational, recreational and counseling opportunities for children and adults. Initially, one school each on St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix were designated as Beacons — Sprauve, E. Benjamin Oliver and Claude O. Markoe, respectively. Now there are two each on St. Thomas and St. Croix — with the addition of the Addelita Cancryn and Elena Christian Junior High Schools, respectively.
Four days a week, V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled personnel assist primary school students with homework and teach them arts and craft. The Potential Employment Training Program, conducted in cooperation with the Labor Department, helps secondary school students learn how to apply for a job. "The kids are very encouraged by it," Sewer said.
Community service is the focus of Beacon's Teen Outreach Program to help build self-esteem in young people. Nearly 40 teens have parcitipated in TOP since it was introduced. Members develop their own volunteer programs — for example, "during Christmas they solicited donations to make fruit baskets for the senior citizens," Sewer said.
However, Beacon school organizers say they're still trying to find a way to attract adults into their parenting class. This is the fourth time Epic Parenting has been offered. Facilitators help parents develop coping skills to face the challenges of raising a family.
Typically, only four or five participants have signed up for the parenting class, Sewer said. But they've been so enthusiastic in the past that they've often brought pot-luck suppers to share with the other parents, she said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here