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On Island Profile: Jason J. Henry

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Jan. 22, 2007 — Jason J. Henry, a multi-talented rescue worker, has a good head start in putting his stamp on the world.
At 29, he has checked off more on his to-do list than people twice his age, meeting Nelson Mandela and Prince Charles in the course of his efforts to make a difference. He shows no signs of slowing down.
A native of Antigua, Henry moved to the Virgin Islands to live with his father, Reginald, when he was just 14 years old. His mother, the former Mignon Hillhouse, remained back in Antigua.
Henry spent two years at Eudora Kean High School before going back to Antigua to deal with family matters. Life in Antigua, he said, wasn't comparable to life in the Virgin Islands. In the territory, he learned that with hard work the doors of opportunity opened wide.
"I vowed to learn all that I could so that I could make something of myself," Henry says.
At Eudora Kean he stayed on the honor roll, and his early smarts landed him a position as a youth ambassador to Belize and, upon returning home, a volunteer for the AIDS Council in Antigua. He was only 16 at the time. Later he and other youth ambassadors from around the world gathered in Scotland to discuss HIV-AIDS issues. There he met two men who would change his life forever: South African President Nelson Mandela and Great Britain's Prince Charles.
"Wow. Unbelievable, I can't believe I'm here," Henry says, recalling his initial reaction to meeting the men, gathered in Scotland to discuss HIV-AIDS issues with other world leaders.
"I told myself then that I would make an impact on people's lives like they were doing," Henry recalls.
Henry is now the Territorial Coordinator for the HIV-STD-TB clinic for the V.I. Department of Health. The responsibilities that come with that job alone would be enough for most people: making presentations at community outreach events, planning World AIDS Day commemorations and supervising staff, among others. But not for Henry.
He also serves as the Marine and Bike Unit Commander for St. Croix Rescue. Prior to moving to St. Croix about two years ago, Henry was president of St. Thomas Rescue and volunteered with the American Red Cross. Last year, while working full time and holding down a part-time job, he enrolled in the Health Department's emergency management technician class and became a certified EMT.
Without question, Henry is a jack-of-all-trades. He's the kind your mother warned you about — you know, the kind that burns the candle at both ends. But in his case, it's all for the good.
Strapped to his belt are two cell phones to keep him in touch with anyone needing his services. You see, Henry is also a skilled photographer and computer graphic artist and technician. Using skills he honed while working as a graphic-layout editor with the V.I. Daily News, he designs and publishes booklets and pamphlets for events such as weddings, funerals and employee galas.
His ambitions stretch much farther.
"I want to be a senator or CEO of a hospital, whether here or in Antigua," he says. "I want to be in a position to make decisions and help people"
The love of working with people started in Antigua, where Henry literally chased ambulances.
"Initially, it was a love of speed," he says. "I had a fascination with speed — driving fast, and the blaring of the sirens. As I matured, the love changed to caring for people and making people happy."
The list goes on. Henry also serves as the assistant coordinator for emergency evacuation at Rescue, and he went as far as taking flying lessons so that the organization would have a pilot on call for emergency rescues.
While he is far away from the day that he will pilot an airplane for Rescue, it is the determination to improve that drives Henry.
"If it's out there and someone can teach me to do it, I'm like a sponge willing to learn," he says.
For now, his preferred mode of transportation is driving around town in his distinctive Jeep, emblazoned with a green serpent's tail. It's his version of a health insignia.
"Taking the EMT improved my skills," Henry says. "It makes me more effective when I'm out there volunteering for EMS and Rescue. With the flying lessons I will be able to evacuate with a victim" as opposed to just helping the injured onto a plane, he explains.
Henry never seems to have learned the word "no." He constantly juggles several jobs at once, and it often means long hours and late nights. But he's not complaining.
"I love doing and learning new things, and I manage my time to get things done," Henry says. "And it's hard to say 'no' when I know that a 'yes' will make someone's day."
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