April 8, 2006 – With a new sign on the front gate and lots of good cheer inside, the John's Folly Learning Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary on Saturday.
Speaker after speaker heaped praise on president Alvis Christian and his board for their good works.
"Alvis and the board didn't wait for the government," Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards said.
Christian received a standing ovation from the more than 100 people gathered at John's Folly for the event.
Ten years ago, Christian and Coral Bay area residents picked up their shovels to clear out the long-abandoned Horace Mann School. From that big step, they scraped, painted and prayed for funding to help them along. And they sold many, many pounds of potato salad and fried chicken to raise money for building improvements and the school's programs.
Master of ceremonies Amos Carty said that when he first saw the building it was covered in bush. "And there was a horse out front," he said, laughing.
Carty noted that Christian successfully navigated his way through the bush and the government bureaucracy that went with getting the school on its feet.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley spoke about Christian's persuasiveness in getting people involved with the institute. Harley said Christian drew from the both the white and black community to find people who were willing to help.
"That's the way we were brought up. And the Institute is bringing it back," Harley said.
Christian, speaking about the children who attend the after-school and summer programs at John's Folly, said about 50 percent are on the honor roll.
He introduced two police officers who are now staffing the Coral Bay station. Officer Delvin Fleming said that when he and officer Adrien Huggins starting digging around in the Coral Bay area's crime problem, they learned that children were involved.
Fleming said they when they looked for solutions, Christian's name always came up.
The two then started teaching diving to the John's Folly students.
Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen said that in recent discussions with the territory's youth she learned that young men want a place to meet their friends and get help with their homework.
She said the Institute filled that need.
Carrying a sign that read "Are the children really our future?" Lorelei Monsanto used Richards' presence to protest conditions at Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay. She said portions of the school had no electricity for eight days.
Richards promised that a maintenance crew would be at the school Monday to make repairs. He said the problem lies in the fact that the Education Department doesn't have a maintenance crew based on St. John.
Making light of the fact that he had to deal with this issue during a celebration, he told a story of how he was accosted by an elderly woman while waiting to take communion during a Sunday church service.
"She said 'Sonny, I know this isn't the place for it, but the road up there is too bad,'" he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
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