The Friends of the V.I. National Park wrapped up its successful Seminar Series last month, raising $15,000 for the non-profit organization.
The Seminar Series, now in its eighth year, offered 26 educational seminars, each one featuring a different aspect of the VINP, throughout the months of January through April.
“The turnout was really good this year,” said Friends Program Manager Kristen Maize. “Some people come down every year and plan their trips around the Seminar Series, so we mixed up the schedule this year so those people could do different things. A lot of this year’s seminars were full.”
“We made more money than the previous year, and we had more people come, so that’s always a great way to judge the success of the series,” Maize added.
Locals, Park Employees Host Seminars
The series, which began small with only a few VINP employees in 1999, now offers seminars hosted by both Park employees and St. John residents recruited by Maize.
“I do seek out new people, and we have some people who repeat every year,” said Maize. “We have a really nice combination of instructors. We do try and come up with new ideas every year to keep it fresh, and to keep people interested.”
Some of the seminars are more popular than others, explained Maize.
“Most of the boat trips and the nature walks are where we get the larger numbers,” she said. “We do get a lot of tourists at the seminars, but it really depends on the trip. The boat trips attract mainly tourists, while the nature hikes attract mainly locals.”
New Residents Enjoy Seminars
The seminars have proven to be a good way for those new to the island to get to know their surroundings, Maize added.
“People who just moved here are also really into the seminar series,” she said. “There are a lot of people who want to learn more about St. John and the local community, and they see the Seminar Series as a way to get mini-lessons. That’s why we offer one seminar during the week and one or two on the weekends — to accommodate both locals and tourists.”
The Friends often gather feedback from those who attend the seminars in an attempt to continually offer new ideas.Each seminar is designed to involve the VINP in some way, Maize explained.
Teaching People About The Park
“We try to keep it fresh and come up with new ideas involving St. John’s natural and cultural resources,” she said. “We had some painting classes this year, which were nice because they were within the Park, focusing on its beauty, and then we have archaeology boat trips, which focus directly on the Park’s cultural resources. The seminars are usually within the Park, or have something to do with the Park’s resources.”
“The seminars are enjoyable and teach people more about the Park, which is key here,” Maize added.
This year’s Seminar Series featured an archaeology boat trip with VINP Archaeologist Ken Wild; a steel pan lesson with the Love City Pan Dragons; an exploration of the Dutch Creole language with linguistic expert Dr. Gilbert Sprauve; an afternoon with Guy Benjamin, who shared memories of his youth on St. John; and many other seminars enjoyed by locals and tourists alike for a small fee.
$15,000 Raised for Friends
The Seminar Series is a fundraising event, made possible through the help of the seminar instructors, explained Maize.
“We raised more than $15,000 for the Friends of the VINP this year, which is just incredible,” she said. “That is totally due to the fact that all the instructors, people with boats and different venues donate everything to us. This wouldn’t be a fundraiser without them.”
“Instructors and the Park staff are really very willing to get involved,” Maize added.