JESS Fundraising Gala Will Be Caneel Bay’s Elegant Turtle Bay


JESS gala attendees enjoy laughs and fun while raising money for the Cruz Bay public elementary and middle school.

On Saturday night, May 5, local educators, parents and community members will gather at Caneel Bay Resort for the annual Julius E. Sprauve School fundraising gala.

While this year marks the gala’s 15th anniversary, returning guests should expect an event unlike any they’ve attended in years past.

Traditionally a more “sit-down” event, this year’s gala is being billed as a masquerade ball and will feature student performances, three live bands, raffles, and slide shows in addition to both a live and silent auction.

Along with this new design, the gala is also gaining a new location. Previously hosted at Caneel’s Sunset Terrace, the evening’s festivities this year are moving to the resort’s Turtle Bay Estate House.

Organizers of the upcoming gala hope that these changes will create a more social, interactive environment.

“We want people to have options,” said JESS Principal Dionne Wells, a former student  of the Cruz Bay public school herself. “We want people to feel like they’re at a party.”

JESS Vice Principal Brenda Dalmida agreed.

“This is not a sit-and-fall-asleep event,” said Dalmida. “We plan to dance the night away.”

The gala was originally organized to raise money for the school after it was damaged in 1995’s Hurricane Marilyn. In the years since that inaugural event, proceeds have funded projects like renovating classrooms and updating cafeteria equipment.

This time around, money raised will be put towards two important causes: repairing the school campus’s existing intercom system; and purchasing cutting-edge technology for the students and staff. 

JESS’ intercom system is  a “powerful tool” used to make daily school-wide announcements, explained Wells.

The system is also used to “recognize students for their achievements and showcase their talents,” said the principal.

The current system, however, is 10 years old, and has a tendency to cut out mid-message, according to officials.

Repairing the intercom system will make communication within the school’s four-building campus both more efficient and effective, Wells explained.

As for the latter of the two causes, JESS strives to give each of its students the opportunity to interact with technology every day, according to Wells.

In keeping with this goal, a portion of the funds from this year’s gala will go towards purchasing: new computers for classrooms; new parts for SMART interactive boards used in place of traditional dry erase and chalk boards; iPads, on which students will be able to utilize reading and math applications; and “technology carts,” said Wells.

Technology carts contain between 20 and 24 laptops each and are essentially mobile computer labs, which will be shared by several classrooms within the school, explained the JESS principal.

These goals are clearly in line with this year’s gala theme of “Touching Children’s Lives, As We Impact Their Future.”

“It [technology] is the future,” said Vice Principal Dalmida. “We’re trying to stay current and up-to-date. Our kids need to be cognizant of what they’re going to experience when they get out into the world of work.”

At the heart of this gala’s new look and progressive fundraising missions is, of course, a bigger and more enduring goal — to ensure that JESS remains an outstanding place of learning for the community’s children, explained Dalmida.

“When done well, public education is phenomenal,” she said. “We have high expectations. We want to make sure that public schools are a real option for the children of St. John.”

That objective is something to which Caneel Bay — which has hosted the gala for all 15 years — is  also committed.

“It’s important to us to contribute to and help the community,” said Caneel General Manager Nikolay Hotze. “We’ve chosen to help the Sprauve school, and we’ll continue to do so. We need to give back.”

After the dancing and entertainment, the gala is really all about the children, added Wells.

“Children are our future,” she said. “We have to make sure our children are prepared to be productive citizens of society, and it starts at school.”

The 15th Annual JESS gala is set for Saturday, May 5, at Caneel Bay’s Turtle Bay Estate House from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $100. For more information call JESS at 776-6336 or check out